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Sweden 2-3 France

Contrary to expectations, Sweden and France served up a high scoring friendly in Gothenburg this evening. Sweden led early through Larsson but Benzema quickly levelled for les Bleus. Govou scored a double for Domenech's France before a late Källström penalty gave the final score a fairer reflection on the match.

France’s new era began with a very positive result as Raymond Domenech’s side eventually performed in a commanding manner to beat a generally robust Swedish outfit by three goals to one. Although Henrik Larsson marked the occasion of his 99th cap with a fifth minute goal, Karim Benzema had France level within quarter of an hour. Two second half strikes from Sidney Govou killed the match despite a late Källström penalty.

 

It was by no means a cakewalk for les Bleus, who had to withstand some heavy pressure just before the half-time interval with Steve Mandanda impressive in the visiting goal.

 

Although the French squad contained many youthful faces, none of the four ‘zeros’ were granted starts in an eleven comprised of the most experienced players at Domenech’s disposal. Evra was given the nod ahead of Clichy at left-back while Sagna played ahead of Fanni in the right full-back spot. A new central partnership of Mexès and Gallas was employed, with Lassana Diarra sweeping ahead of them.

 

Immediately, Domenech’s defensive unit was put to the test. Mandanda was quickly off his line to deny Larsson after a Gallas error after just three minutes but les Bleus’ resistance last only two more minutes. Rosenberg’s pinpoint cross was met by Henrik Larsson, arguably the most deadly player on the park, who was alone in the box to rattle Sweden into the lead.

 

Failing to heed this warning, France were nearly two down within the blink of an eye A cracking effort from Rosenberg beat Mandanda but also the post.

 

Toulalan then began to impose himself in the French midfield. Benzema threatened Isaksson’s goal for the first time but was denied at the last moment by Mellberg. Like Larsson earlier, the Lyon forward was not to be denied. Sagna and Toulalan combined down the right to find powerful striker Karim Benzema, whose emphatic finish just beneath the crossbar left the goalkeeper with little chance.

 

A lull of 15 minutes would follow before Mandanda saved France three times in three minutes. The Marseille goalkeeper denied Larsson twice with a superb double-stop before the former Celtic striker had a further effort brilliantly repelled by the stopper.

 

Full of confidence, Sweden emerged from the tunnel after half-time positively and, within three minutes of the restart, had forced Mandanda into another save. This time it was Lyon midfielder Kim Källström with the stinging effort.

 

But France killed Sweden’s momentum after about five minutes of pressure. Les Bleus began to get their foot on the ball and show some patience. On the hour mark Domenech’s side would take control of proceedings.

 

Against sluggish Rennes’ centre-back Petter Hansson, who was playing on the right for the Swedes, Florent Malouda had failed to impress until fine work from him set up Sidney Govou in the centre to fire home a go-ahead goal.

 

Les Bleus grew in confidence after this moment and retained good possession. Isaksson kicked away an Henry effort moments later after the Barcelona man was left all alone in the home box.

 

The French captain would not score on the night but he would, at least, claim an assist as a superb backheel to Sidney Govou set the Lyon man free for his second goal of the evening.

 

With this, France seemed to relax and allowed Sweden back into the game late on. Diarra fouled the impressive Kim Källström, who stroked the ball past Mandanda from the penalty spot.

 

There would be no great charge in the closing minutes as les Bleus held out comfortably to start the road to World Cup 2010 with a victory. This may only have been a friendly, but it will be vital in building confidence for their qualifying campaign. France were not brilliant for long spells, but looked comfortable for the most part when ahead.

 

Sweden will also take a great deal from the game, having pushed an accomplished team so close. Larsson’s experience was enough to trouble a new-look French defence, although how long Sweden can continue to profit from their veteran’s brilliance is questionable.

 

Sweden: Isaksson; Hansson, Wilhelmsson (Wendt, 46’), Nilsson (Stoor, 62’), Mellburg (Von Slebrugge, 67’); Svensson, Nilsson, Källström, Andersson (Holmen, 83’); Rosenberg, Larsson (Berg, 62’)

 

Goals: Larsson 5’, Källström 85’

 

Yellow Cards: none

 

France: Mandanda; Sagna, Evra, Mexès, Gallas; L. Diarra; Toulalan (Gourcuff, 90’), Govou, Henry, Malouda (A. Diarra, 70’); Benzema

 

Goals: Benzema 18’, Govou 61’, 77’

 

Yellow Cards: L. Diarra 30’, Toulalan 76’

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