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September 2, 2011
• Stadiumi Kombëtar Qemal Stafa, Tiranë (Tirana)
Referee: A. Nikolaev
• Attendance: 15600
E. Bogdani 46'
K. Benzema 11'
Y. M'Vila 18'
Well that's it for this evening. Thanks for joining us here for Goal.com's LIVE text commentary, and keep it here for Robin Bairner's match report and player ratings as well as other action from across Euro 2012 qualifying. Join me here on Tuesday evening as Les Bleus look to take another step into securing qualification to Poland/Ukraine when they take on Romania. I'm Mohammed Ali, enjoy your evening!
France's plucky 2-1 win here in Tirana tonight leaves them three points ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Group D, who picked up a 2-0 win over Belarus tonight. Romania's 2-0 win in Luxembourg means they are eliminated from Euro 2012 qualifying.
There we have it from the Qemal Stafa in Tirana. Albania looked to have sparked a comeback after Erjon Bogdani slotted home in the 46th minute to halve the deficit, but Les Bleus stood firm to deny the hosts. Goals form Karim Benzema (10) and Yann M'Vila (18) have sealed the points for France.
90' + 3'
Referee Aleksei Nicolaev blows the final whistle. Albania 1-2 France is the final score.
90' + 3'
Alou Diarra and Samir Nasri again link up well. The new Man City signing has been one of the better peformers this evening. The 24 year old also hit the post minutes ago.
90' + 2'
And it certainly does look to be a procession now. The goalkeeper is in no hurry to take this goal-kick.
Into three minutes of injury time signalled at Qemal Stafa.
Some interesting stats to shed some light on. France have the lion's share of possesion with 58% of the ball. Despite that, Albania have had more efforts, with no less than nine shots on target.
Again with the long-ball tactics by the hosts. A lofted ball from deep in midfield is launched up the field. Hugo Lloris does well to pluck the ball out of the air with two or three players, including Bakaj bearing down on him.
In fairness, Samir Ujkani had a big glove to that Nasri effort as he deflected it into a post. A fine save.
POST AGAIN FOR FRANCE!! Plenty of opportunities coming their way to settle this tie and calm the nerves. A brilliant effort from Samir Nasri slams against the left post.
Substitution for France, Marvin Martin is replacing Florent Malouda. The Sochaux man had a late impact in June's 4-1 win over Ukraine. He scored two in 15 minutes that night in the Donbass Arena. Can he grab a goal here?
POST!! SO CLOSE FOR FRANCE! From the resulting corner, Younse Kaboul rose highest to power a header which crashed against the woodwork!
And it could've almost been better for France! Franck Ribery gallops down the flank and cuts in before unleashing a low cross across the face of the goal. Malouda was nearby, but the defence had seen it behind the goal.
Before that effort, Elis Bakaj, the substitute had his shot saved by Hugo Lloris. A nervy few moments for Les Bleus.
Good delivery from the right flank sees the ball find the feet of Ansi Agolli. His half-volley is blocked by Eric Abidal.
Albania's enthusiasm looks to have weakened significantly as the second half wears on. Bogdani's goal straight after the interval had instilled a sense of urgency in them, with efforts arriving left right and centre. Nothing threatening as such from the hosts.
And it comes to nothing. Bit of a wasted chance there for the hosts, who have a quarter of an hour to grab that equaliser.
Albania have a freekick in a dangerous positoo. Lala is over the ball....
Armend Dallku's effort is saved. Meanwhile, Ansi Agolli buys a corner off the French defence. The delivery is poor and swiftly cleared. Still Albania 1-2 France heading into the last 18 minutes or so.
Franck Ribery is fed the ball and the Bayern Munich man goes on one of his mazy runs through the middle of the park. His finish, a tad rushed, is wayward and flies harmlessly over the bar.
Elis Bakaj replaces Ervin Bulku. Meanwhile, Samir Nasri returns to the fold.
Nasri looks to have suffered an injury. He hobbles off the pitch to receive some attention. France also look to be readying a few substitutes. More on that as we get it.
It's the visitors who are seeing more of the ball at the moment, 59% of it in fact! Les Bleus are gently knocking it from man to man in the middle of the park.
It looks as if Josip Kuze's men are deploying long-ball tactics here. Another high ball is placed on the right wing, with Evra who is under pressure, clearing the ball calmly.
How do you envisage this second half going? Can Albania secure that shock equaliser? Or do France have it in them to stand firm, and perhaps grab the game-settling third goal? Tweet me @mohammedali_93 and I'll post your messages.
Yellow Card Lorik Cana
Evra is tussling with Bullku for the ball, and ultimately the Man Utd left-back gains the upper hand. Seconds later, Lorik Cana is handed a yellow card by the referee. The reason that's significant is that the Lazio man will MISS his side's next qualifier on Tuesday.
Oohh tough call that. Karm Benzema slips a ball into Florent Malouda who goes behind the defence. The Russian official has flagged for offside.
The visitors are looking to hold their own now, with Evra lacing a fine ball into the path of Ribery on the flank. Lorik Cana has it all covered with a superb diving tackle.
The Shqiponat are really having a go at the former European champions. A sluggish start it might've been for Josip Kuze's men, but they are most certainly exploiting the flanks.
FANTASTIC SAVE BY LLORIS!!! Albania have been brewing up a chance in the last few moments, and their chance has come...and gone! Agolli gallops down the left wing and gets in a cross for Dallku. Dallku's effort is initially blocked, with the second attempt saved in fantastic fashion by the Lyon custodian. The third attempt is skied over, with Les Bleus able to breathe a sigh of relief.
Aleksei Nikolaev has awarded France a corner. Samir Nasri takes the setpiece, but nothing comes from it.
Albania are in the ascendancy with that Bogdani strike, and the noise level inside the Qemal Stafa has intensified.
Yellow Card Armand Dallku
Russian referee Aleksei Nicolaev has cautioned Armand Dallku.
What a shocking piece of defending that was, primarily from Tottenham's Younes Kaboul. Whatever Josip Kuze said at half-time has had an instant impact. Erjon Bogdani is now ALBANIA's ALL TIME TOP GOALSCORER WITH 15 STRIKES!
Goal Erjon Bogdani
GOAAAAAL!!! WHAT A START TO THE SECOND HALF FOR ALBANIA!!!! 45 seconds in, and a lofted ball from the midfield is latched onto superbly by Erjon Bogdani who catches Younes Kaboul out cold. He gets in between both centre backs and slots home with Lloris unable to stop it trickling into the net.
Underway in the second half. Albania 0-2 France.
As we prepare for the second half here in Qemal Stafa, why don't you send us your opinions, messages and comments. Tweet me @mohammedali_93.
Elsewhere in Group D, Bosnia-Herzegovina have thrown the runners-up spot wide open with a 2-0 win over Belarus in Minsk this evening. I'm not exactly great at mathematics, but a win here and on Tuesday v Romania would almost certainly seal France's participation at UEFA Euro 2012.
Let's recap the first half shall we? Albania had started slightly stronger of the pair, but Karim Benzema's lovely curling effort past Samir Ujkani gave the hosts the lead inside 10 minutes. A superb ball from Yann M'Vila into Benzema set the tone for the second, with the Real Madrid striker repeating the favour, setting up the Rennes midfielder who stroked the ball in imperious fashion.
Thanks to Robin Bairner for taking up the reins whilst we sorted out some technical difficulties. I'm Mohammed Ali again, and half-time in Tirana, it's Albania 0-2 France.
45' + 1'
That's half-time. The scoreline flatters France a little, but their two goals have been very well taken, and Laurent Blanc can be very pleased with his side's efforts.
Oh... Lala nearly latches onto a fine pass from Agolli, but the pass is just too heavy for the midfielder, who was moving into a very dangerous location.
There's some pretty fierce challenges coming in. Ribery feels the studs of Cana again, but still no booking for the home defender.
Some intricate work by France on the edge of the box, but it all breaks down rather easily as Benzema tumbles to the ground under a Cana challenge.
Sorry about the delay folks, we've had a few technical difficulties. Thankfully, we've not missed too much. Albania have had a good amount of pressure in the French half, but they've struggled to work Hugo Lloris. At the other end of the field, Teli was booked for a foul on Benzema, and Ribery rattled the subsequent free kick against the bar.
Yellow Card Admir Teli
M'Vila has a shot blocked by the defence, while Samir Nasri coninues to pose considerable problems on the right flank. The Albanians are just not getting anything so far.
Goal.com's French Football Editor Robin Bairner makes the point about Yann M'Vila having had a stormer of a game so far, capped off by that wonderful second goal which he instigated and completed. No wonder he was subject to a transfer bid by Arsenal in midweek.
Laurent Blanc is pulling up his trousers on the touch line in clear satisfaction. France might not be setting the world alight, but they are attacking with devastating efficiency. Qemal Stafa stadium has been silenced!
Goal Yann M'Vila
FRANCE HAVE DOUBLED THEIR LEAD! Superb break up the field, with Rennes' Yann M'Vila slipping through a perfect ball to Karim Benzema on the wing. Initially, the pass looked overhit. But M'Vila was on hand to get on the end of the ball and double the visitor's advantage!
It was Hamdi Salihi, scorer of both of Albania's last two goals in Euro 2012 qualifying who hit the bar straight after Benzema's opener.
France will have to watch out here, Albania are suddenly springing into life. A shot from some distance flashes past Lloris' post.
What will this mean for Albania? A formidable side at home, but one will think that an early goal will have put paid to their hopes of salvaging a point? What do you think of Benzema's opener? Tweet me @mohammedali_93
Oh, and Albania really should've equalised at the first opportunity. A quick surge up the field from the midfield, with Erjon Bogdani failing.
Goal Karim Benzema
GOAAAAL!! FRANCE HAVE THE BREAKTHROUGH!! They've persevered in the early stages, and Karim Benzema has rewarded them! Lovely bit of play from Ribery, who sets up the Real Madrid striker who fired in a sweet effort from just outside the area. Curled a bit too.
Nice bit of interlinking play between Samir Nasri and Alou Diarra. The visitors however, are quickly dispossessed by Lorik Cana.
Game has started at a slow pace here in Qemal Stafa, Tirana. Laurent Blanc's men know they need three points, with a trip to Romania looming on Wednesday.
Referee Aleksei Nicolaev from Russia gives the visitors a freekick, with Malouda unsuccessful in troubling Ujkani.
And it's France's turn to attack the Albanian goal, Ribery curls in a left footed cross which is swiftly dealt with by Dallku.
Bogdani races on the left flank, but cannot get anywhere fast as Les Bleus hold their line well.
And immediately Lorik Cana crashes into Franck Ribery, both players played for Marseille together until the latter's move to Bayern in 2007.
And were are finally underway! Albania get us started
For those wondering why we haven't kicked off yet, it's because both capitains are announcing something to the crowd. Six minutes after the proposed 21:00 CET start.
Anthems over. Let's get ready for a cracking match. Albania in red, France in their white away strip.
Minutes before kick off here in Tirana. Remember, you can tweet me your comments, predictions and opinions via Twitter to @mohammedali_93.
What do you make of that lot folks? Lyon's Anthony Revelliere replaces Arsenal's Bacary Sagna, whilst Samir Nasri takes the playmaker role ahead of Marvin Martin. French football fans will know all about Lorik Cana, with the Lazio midifelder captaining Marseille until his departure in 2009.
FRANCE (4-2-3-1): Lloris; Reveillere, Abidal, Kaboul, Evra; Diarra, M'Vila; Ribery, Nasri, Malouda; Benzema Substitutes: Mandanda, Sagna, Koscielny, Cabaye, Martin, Gameiro, Remy
TEAM NEWS: ALBANIA (4-5-1): Ujkani; Dallku, Cana, Teli, Vangjeli; Curri, Agolli, Bulku, Skela, Sahili; Bogdani Substitutes: Hidi, Duro, Lala, Januzi, Lika, Bakaj, Hyka
Right, French and Albanian fans. I want to hear from you tonight. What are your predictions? Can France continue their impressive run, or can Albania continue their good run at home and stifle the visitors? Contact me via Twitter - send your tweets to @mohammedali_93 or @goal_intl and I'll put them up.
But what of the hosts Albania, I hear you ask? The Shiqponat are ranked 52 in the world, and lie fourth in Group D. Josip Kuze's men are five points behind tonight's opponents. The Eastern Europeans are a formidable unit at home, having ground out two 1-0 wins in their last two home qualifiers, both scored by Hamdi Sahili.
France, Group D leaders and winners in 2000, have not lost an international game since their shock 1-0 home defeat to 2nd placed Belarus exactly a year ago in Paris. Since then, the rejuvenated Les Bleus have grabbed eight wins from eleven internationals, including wins over England and Brazil. A far cry from the side that spectacularly imploded at the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
Good evening and welcome to Goal.com's LIVE text commentary of the Euro 2012 qualification clash between Albania and France. As always, I'm Mohammed Ali, and I'll be taking you through live proceedings from the Qemal Stafa stadium in Tirana. Team News to follow shortly.
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