Les Bleus' World Cup hangover continued as they suffered a disastrous loss in Paris...
Dogged and determined Belarus ruined Laurent Blanc’s debut as France coach as they scored a sensational 1-0 victory on the opening evening of Euro 2012 qualifying.
The decisive moment in the game arrived after 85 minutes when Hleb brothers Vyacheslav and Aliaksandr combined to set-up Syarhey Kislyak to fire into the top corner of Hugo Lloris’ net.
It was in fact red-clad guests who otherwise had the best chance of the game just five minutes after the break when Vyacheslav Hleb played a wonderful pass through to Vitali Rodionov, who could only slash a right-footed shot wide from deep inside the box.
Moments later, Florent Malouda’s diving header flew straight into the arms of Yuri Zhevnov following a flick from Guillaume Hoarau, and the Chelsea man would correctly have a goal disallowed for offside just after the hour mark.
France had opened with renewed vigour. Loic Remy, one of the young guns drafted in by Blanc, was one of the chief protagonists in the early stages, looking effervescent each time he gathered possession, heading an awkward chance from a Jeremy Menez corner just wide.
Malouda had his moments in the early stages of the game and would grow into les Bleus’ most effective attacker. A cut-back from the former Olympique Lyonnais star was cleared by Aliaksandr Kulchiy, while a later overhead from close range flew comfortably over. On the stroke of half-time, a direct run through the heart of the Belarus defence ended with a fierce moving drive that was punched clear by Zhevnov.
The visitors, who began to look largely comfortable in the period before the break after a difficult start, were not content to simply sit back and soak up pressure, keeping possession for significant spells but struggling to threaten Lloris’ goal, with Vitali Kutuzov being denied by Philippe Mexes blocks twice in quick succession.
In the second half it was the hosts who dominated, but the ball dropped unkindly for them in the box regularly. Hoarau headed just over on the stretch, while a hooked Mathieu Valbuena effort was impressively touched over. With seconds remaining, Kevin Gameiro fizzed a fantastic chance just over.
Problems apparent during Raymond Domenech’s rein, notably a lack of cutting edge and incision, were clear in les Bleus’ play, and with a match against Bosnia to come on Tuesday, France will have to regroup swiftly. Meanwhile, Belarus coach Bernd Stange’s aim of at least reaching the play-offs is not looking quite so audacious as his side recorded a truly historic victory on another grim evening for the hosts.