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September 7, 2012
• Helsingin olympiastadion, Helsinki (Helsingfors)
Referee: C. Thomson
• Attendance: 35111
A. Diaby 20'
Nevertheless, les Bleus now turn their attention to a home qualifier against Belarus on Tuesday, as Spain kick-off their World Cup qualifying campaign. An improvement will have to be made. That's it from me this evening, good night!
Full-time in Helsinki, and it's France who have taken all three points as expected. A blistering start from the visitors faded alarmingly towards the end of the second half, as Mixu Paatelainen's men threatened through the likes of Sparv and Hamalainen. In the end, Lloris' smart stops ensured that Deschamps is undefeated as France boss.
90' + 3'
FULL-TIME: Finland 0-1 France (Diaby 20')
90' + 3'
Good work from Ring to keep the ball in play and maintain the pressure on France heading into the final minute, but that is set to be the last moment of action here.
90' + 2'
Finland putting all their efforts into uncovering a shock equaliser in stopage time. Kuqi attempts to win a penalty, but he is well marshalled by Mamadou Sakho. It rolls out for a goal-kick
90' + 1'
Into THREE ADDED MINUTES at the Olympic Stadium.
France winding down the clock here, bringing a barrage of boos from the home faithful. Valbuena wins a free-kick, and we're into the final minute of the 90.
Good interevntion from Arkivuo, who holds off Patrice Evra, who was ready to whip in a threatening cross. Ribery's the final substitution for the visitors, and he is replaced by Bafetimbi Gomis.
Yellow Card Niklas Moisander
France's performance in this second half bordering on the sloppy, and in a group containing Spain, that would not be the best thing, one would imagine. Moisander booked for a flying tackle on Ribery.
Edging closer and closer to the full-time whistle, and it still remains 1-0 to France, despite numerous scares from the Finns, who were denied by Lloris' point-blank heroics.
LLORIS! WORLD-CLASS SAVE! Smart move from Paatelainen's men who opt for the short corner and return, before Eremenko's cross is headed by Sparv goalwards, which is denied. Lloris might've saved France there.
Another dangerous move from the hosts, who can put pressure on the French with a strong showing towards the end of the game. Kuqi's cross from the left flashes wide.
France still searching for that game-deciding second goal, though they've been no closer into achieving that target. A slightly turgid second half it's been at the Olympic Stadium.
Substitution for Finland - Njazi Kuqi replaces the enterprising and somewhat impressive Kaspar Hamalainen.
Ribery paces his marker, before slipping another through ball into the path of Benzema, who is denied by the interception of Roman Eremenko. If anyone deserves a goal tonight, it's Benzema.
Yellow Card Blaise Matuidi
Reveilliere bombs down the right wing unopposed, before Moisander comes across with a wonderful slide tackle to rob the Lyon man of the ball. Moments later, Matuidi is already booked for a challenge on Alexei Eremenko. He's only been on for a minute
Ribery fouled by Arkivou, as the visitors gain a free-kick. Meanwhile, it's Yohan Cabaye who will come off in favour of Blaise Matuidi.
OFFSIDE! Valbuena holds off the challenge of a defender to slip a lovely ball into Benzema. The Real Madrid man is about to pull the trigger, but he is denied by the Scottish linesman.
HAMALAINEN! A momentary lapse in concentration from Sakho and Yanga-Mbiwa sees the Djugarden midfielder ghost in behind the two, and latch onto a long ball. He fails to get some contact on it, but any touch surely would've seen it divert past Lloris. France escape there!
Hamalainen chases a loose ball on the far side, but in the midst of that, pushes Yanga-Mbiwa straight to the ground. Free-kick the other way. 23 minutes or so left in this one.
And it's a decent start for Alexei Eremenko who latches onto a lofted ball in the box and chests it away from the French defender, though it unfortunately runs out of play. Finland on top in the last four or five minutes.
Alexei Jr. Eremenko
Substitution from Finland - Alexei Eremenko Jr on for Hetemaj.
Yellow Card Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa
PUKKI! How did he not turn that n?Finland's best chance, and it's spurned in an instant after good work from Hamalainen. Yanga-Mbiwa booked for a challenge on Sparv.
Substitution from France. It's Mathieu Valbuena on. Unsurprisingly, Jeremy Menez comes off.
BENZEMA! He's been working hard in this game, but cannot still find a shot on target. Wonderfully dribbles past a collection of Finnish defenders, but lacks the clean hit on the finish, which flashes wide.
Deschamps seeking more attacking creativity on the wings, which is why his former Marseille protege Mathieu Valbuena is about to come on.
Corner to Finland, and Tim Sparv's header is blocked for a second attempt. The set-piece is once more delivered in well, but Pukki fails to get a decent hit on it, and it flies over.
MENEZ! Oh, they were queuing up as well! Benzema holds play well on the by-line, and picks out the PSG winger on the edge of the box. As was the case in Ligue 1 against Ajaccio, Menez proceeds to blast it well over the bar.
EVRA! Oh so close, needed someone to connect with that on the other end. The Man Utd left-back skips past the challenge of Toivio, and moves into position inside the area, and delivers a low cross which in the end, trickles out of play.
Oh, Eremenko. Possibly frustrated with the lack of attacking action emanating from the midfield, the Rubin man jumps onto the ball and fires powerfully from 40 yards out. It goes well, well over.
Yellow Card Tim Sparv
An attacking move which promised so much, in the end failed to come to fruition. Evra and Benzema involved in a one-two, before the Man Utd man is forced to find Ribery on the wing, who didn't expect it. The Bayern winger's low cross easily picked up by Hradecky.
Sparv and Halsti combine on the left, aiming to locate Pukki in a congested midfield. The ball finds its way to Eremenko, but a wayward pass from the Rubin Kazan midfielder goes absolutely nowhere.
SAKHO! France really ought to be 2-0 up now. From the resulting corner, the PSG defender heads powerfully towards goal, and it's kept out by Hradecky, who even acrobatically holds onto it.
CABAYE! Wonderful save by Hradecky. Destined for the top corner that one. Super stop by the Finnish no.1. It was Benzema who instigated that move, tricking his way past Arkivuo, before Cabaye's effort from distance.
Lethargic from the hosts, who are struggling to keep possession, and also struggling to contain the visitors. A high ball from defence locates Hetemaj on the wing, but it's cut out.
Arsenal's Laurent Koscielny warming up on the touchline, but sporting gloves, and one of those massive coats. The temperature in Helsinki is 9C, and we've just come out of summer!
Strong start after the break from the French, as Benzema and Ribery race to charge down a hurried block from captain Moisander. Seconds later, the Real Madrid man is found to be offside.
Underway in the second period. France get us started.
Elsewhere in Group I, Georgia have beaten Belarus 1-0 in Tbilisi, thanks to Tornike Okriashvili's 52nd minute winner. A win is imperative for France, as favourites and holders Spain aren't in competitive action tonight. They open their defence on Tuesday, but encounter Saudi Arabia in a friendly this evening.
Finland themselves have had chances, namely from Djurgarden midfielder Kaspar Hamalainen. Lloris has been called into action once, with the hosts seemingly unable to create the killer ball, though Yanga-Mbiwa produced a last-ditch tackle to deny the 26-year-old. Still a lot to play for in Helsinki.
A pretty decent start for Didier Deschamps in his first competitive encounter as national team boss. Abou Diaby's 20th minute opener remains the difference, but it could've, and perhaps should've been more. Diaby brilliant throughout the first 45, though Finland will not exactly see this as a lost cause.
45' + 1'
HALF-TIME: Finland 0-1 France (Diaby 20')
Into ONE MINUTE OF ADDED TIME AT THE END OF THE FIRST HALF
France should've really made it 2-0 there. Again, players packed into the box, but a poor pass scuppers the entire move. Diaby keeps the ball i play, but Toivio is on hand to clear accordingly.
Lovely phase of play from the visitors, who spread the ball easily across the final third. Benzema picks up the ball on the edge of the area, and it's charged down by a defender.
Menez and Reveillere combine on the wing, with the latter going for the option of Benzema in the middle of the six yard box. Easily picked out by Moisander. Free-kick after Hetemaj's rash challenge on Mavuba.
Another free-kick conceded, this time from Teemu Pukki who unashamedly hangs on to Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Six minutes until the interval, and it's a pretty decent game unfolding in the Finnish capital.
GOOD SAVE HUGO LLORIS! The corner was delivered well from the right, and met the head of Eremenko, whose effort was parried away by Lloris. Free-kick conceded by Sparv.
Another break from Finland, but once more, it doesn't get very far. Pukki instigates the counter attack, with Arkivuo on the far side providing support. Throw-in after an Evra block.
Great challenge from Hetemaj who receives the applause of those in attendance. Successfully chases down Reveillere who has looked somewhat average in this half so far.
Tempo just easing slightly at the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki. The visitors seem content to sit on their 1-0 lead for the time being, with the midfielders holding possession well.
Looking back at that Ring injury (he is fine now), he was caught by a kick from Cabaye, who had intended to get the ball. Meanwhile, Lloris dangerously lets the ball roll towards his net before clearing. Risky.
France causing a few problems for the hosts' rearguard as Abou Diaby and Sakho attempt to latch onto a loose ball, before it is cleared by Arkivou. Alexander Ring is down injured for the hosts.
Beginning to stretch this one, as Pukki surges forward with Eremenko as an option to his right, though Cabaye tracks back to help defensively.
Close once more from les Bleus, who are working hard in this first half, as Benzema sees another shot blocked. Mamadou Sakho is on the receiving end of a few boos after a late challenge on Hetemaj.
HAMALAINEN! Finland beginning to find their rhythm here, as a lovely one-two between Eremenko and Hamalainen sees the latter move off an offside position to launch a shot on goal. Easy save for Lloris.
Yellow Card Markus Halsti
BENZEMA! Tame shot in the end, but the Real Madrid man is in the mood here. Again dribbles into position, tees up an effort, before the shot finds its way to Hradecky who needs two attempts to safely gather the loose ball.
Second yellow of the game, and first for the hosts. Markus Halsti in the book for a late tackle. The 28-year-old plies his trade for Malmo, for those who were unaware.
Benzema had a shot blocked by Halsti, as Les Bleus threatened to double their advantage. TV replays show Benzema actually skipped past three defenders, before Diaby beat a further two. Finland ripped apart.
What a start to the season Abou Diaby is having. An energetic beginning with Arsenal, and now his first national team goal. Superb move from the visitors, who lead Mixu Paatelainen's side.
Assist Karim Benzema
Goal A. Diaby
GOAAAL!! ABOU DIABY!!! Fantastic move from France as Benzema weaves past three defenders and slipping a through ball to the Arsenal midfielder. In space, he easily holds off the final challenge, and slips the ball under the goalkeeper.
Ribery surges through on the left side of midfield, some 25 yards out, attempting to connect with Benzema, before it is blocked.
Craig Thomson was the referee in France's do-or-die clash against Bosnia-Herzegovina in their final Euro 2012 qualifier. He awarded Les Bleus a late controversial penalty which Samir Nasri converted as France progressed to the finals.
Chance from Eremenko, whose effort is blocked and goes behind for a corner. France losing a little of their discipline with numerous decisions going against them. The resulting corner from the hosts fails to materalise into anything serious.
Yellow Card Yohan Cabaye
First yellow card of the game, and it's to Yohan Cabaye of Newcastle United. Poor tug on Hamalainen who was about to hit on the counter attack. Referee Craig Thomson issues a booking
CHANCE! And wasted! A lovely ball from deep finds Hamalainen whose shot is blocked by a wonderful tackle from Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa. Finland could've been ahead! A world class intervention
Anthony Reveillere positions himself in a free space on the right flank, but fails to take advantage. His low cross in blocked by Moisander.
Eremenko attempts to spray a pass to his left and create an opening against Hetemaj before the ball is cut out. The visitors slightly on top here.
Romain Eremenko has much to be aggrieved about. After dispossessing Abou Diaby with a good tackle, he is subsequently challenged by the Arsenal man, with the referee giving a free-kick the other way.
Lovely bit of trickery from Franck Ribery, showcasing his talents with a few skills past Arkivuo. He is crowded near the corner flag, as Finland successfully retrieve the ball.
Cabaye attempts to create a chance with the follow-on, but Ribery fires it wide. Not sure whether it was a cross, but Lukas Hradecky easily saw that one fly harmlessly past him.
Foul by Toiivio on Benzema, as he enters a challenge on the Real Madrid striker a tad too late. Cabaye whips it in, and the threatening ball is dealt with by Moisander.
A free-kick from the left is pinged into the box but headed away easily. Subsequently, Hradecky picks up a shot from range by Franck Ribery pretty easily. Subdued start in Finland.
Well, what do you know? Already a few boos for Patrice Evra as he takes a throw-in. A high ball from Reveilliere from the right in towards Benzema sees the ball intercepted by Toivio.
An energetic start from the visitors, as Abou Diaby meanders past a challenge in the midfield. it is his first France start since June 2011, amid a good start to his campaign for Arsenal.
AND WE ARE UNDERWAY! Finland in white, France in blue, in the stadium that hosted the Olympic Games some 60 years ago. The road to Brazil starts here!
Oh, The French anthem is so majestic. Whilst La Marseillaise pumps out of the speakers in Helsinki, just time for me to tell you that tonight's referee hails from Scotland, Craig Thomson. Why is that relevant? I'll tell you later. Unless you know already, drop me a message.
Predictions? Send them over here to @goal_intl or comment at the bottom of the page. I'm personally going for a 2-0 French victory.
The teams are coming out in Helsinki, kick-off just five minutes away.
TEAM NEWS: No surprises in the visitors line-up, as Anthony Reveillere takes position ahead of Christophe Jallet in the right-back slot. Giroud's exclusion means Benzema is the lone striker in a 4-3-3 formation, flanked by Jeremy Menez and Franck Ribery. For Finland, an interesting line-up as Markus Halsti and Përparim Hetemaj come into the squad, with Alexei Eremenko among the bench. Teemu Pukki of Schalke 04 leads the line.
FRANCE XI: (4-3-3) Lloris - Réveillère, Yanga-Mbiwa, Sakho, Evra - Diaby, Mavuba, Cabaye - Ménez, Benzema, Ribéry.
FINLAND XI: Hradecky - Arkivuo, Toivio, Moisander, Halsti - Ring, Sparv, Hetemaj, R. Eremenko - Pukki, Hämäläinen
CONFIRMED TEAM LINE-UPS:
Some team news already confirmed from Didier Deschamps. Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud will not feature, as he is suffering from a slight knock, with the coach already confirming that PSG's Mamadou Sakho and Montpellier's Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa will start in the centre-back roles. The full team news is as follows
A few statistics to bring your way as we await kick-off. France are yet to score in 304 minutes of action, since the second match of Euro 2012 against Ukraine, with neither Benzema nor Giroud finding the net at all this season so far. Furthermore, Les Bleus have not lost to Finland yet in the two sides' previous meeting.
The build-up in the French camp hasn't exactly been a smooth one, as you'd expect. Captain Hugo Lloris made a deadline day move from Olympique Lyonnais to Tottenham, only for new boss Andre Villas-Boas to continue to put his faith in Brad Friedel. National team boss Deschamps let slip the 25-year-old wasn't happy at the comments, which could subsequently open a path for Steve Mandanda to reclaim the number one jersey. Who knows? Send us your thoughts to @goal_intl or comment at the bottom of the page.
Back to tonight's encounter. Finland themselves have a point to prove after slipping 24 places to 96th position in the world rankings, their lowest ever standing. Mixu Paatelainen's side performed admirably in the 3-3 draw with Northern Ireland, but were overwhelmed in the Euro 2012 qualifying segments, with consecutive home defeats to Sweden and Netherlands. That said, Finland ended the last World Cup qualifying cycle with a strong performance, even holding Germany to a draw.
Nevertheless, the coach is without a number of players through injury and lack of fitness, with the likes of Mathieu Debuchy, Bacary Sagna, Philippe Mexes, Loic Remy and Eric Abidal sidelined. Meanwhile, a number of players are still serving suspensions or have simply been dropped, despite featuring in the last few matches, namely Samir Nasri, Yann M'Vila, Hatem Ben Arfa.
In fact, the Gallic nation's last game in this competition proved a hugely controversial affair, with the now infamous "Hand of Frog" affair denying the Republic of Ireland a perfectly legitimate path to South Africa. But that was almost three years ago, and the long road to Brazil begins here in the Finnish capital.
France open the 2014 World Cup qualifying cycle amid changes in the national team set-up. Former Marseille boss Didier Deschamps takes control of Les Bleus in his first competitive game at the helm, with France still feeling the effects of the events that marred their last World Cup venture. Deschamps takes over from Laurent Blanc who managed a draw and defeat in his first two games, but went on to achieve 23 games unbeaten until June 2012 as the nation exited at the hands of Spain in the quarter-final of Euro 2012. The 43-year-old will be hoping for a better start.
Let me introduce myself first, my name is Mohammed Ali, and I'll be guiding you through all the action over the next 90 or so minutes. Get involved as always on Twitter - you can follow Goal.com International @goal_intl, or via the comments section at the bottom of the page. Understood? Let's move on.
Good evening, and welcome to Goal.com's coverage of the first round of European qualifying for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Tonight's live commentary comes from the Olympic Stadium in Helsinki as Finland take on 1998 champions and 2006 finalists France as Group I kicks off. Confirmed team-news shortly.
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