Tue, May 29, 2012 - Page 18 News List

France rally to survive Iceland scare

AFP, VALENCIENNES, FRANCE

France’s Franck Ribery, center, shoots to score past Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson, right, as Iceland defender Hallgrimur Jonasson looks on in their international friendly at the Stade du Hainaut in Valenciennes, France, on Sunday.

Photo: AFP

France battled back from two goals down at halftime to beat Iceland 3-2 and avoid a humiliating defeat in the first of three warm-ups for Euro 2012 on Sunday.

Iceland, ranked a lowly 131 in FIFA’s world rankings, stunned their hosts when Birkir Bjarnason put them into a 28th-minute lead, with Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson doubling up five minutes later.

Whatever words of wisdom France coach Laurent Blanc came up with at the interval evidently sank in as the second half was only seven minutes old when LOSC Lille Metropole defender Mathieu Debuchy reduced the deficit.

However, France then had to wait until the 85th minute before Franck Ribery put them back on level terms with a lob for the Bayern Munich star’s first goal for his country since April 2009.

Valencia defender Adil Rami bagged the winner three minutes from time, volleying home Olivier Giroud’s knockdown to extend France’s unbeaten run to 19 matches.

France’s next prep outing is against Serbia on Thursday in Reims, with their third and final warm-up scheduled for June 5 in Le Mans against Estonia.

Blanc’s men are drawn in Group D at Euro 2012 and they begin their campaign in Donetsk, Ukraine, against England on June 11, followed by co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden.

A lackluster display by most of the France side — the one notable exception being Karim Benzema, who had a good match — will give Blanc plenty to think about with only two weeks to go before battle commences in Ukraine and Poland.

“We defended very badly in the first half,” Blanc said. “I changed lots of players in the second half who brought in a different style and with Iceland getting tired, it enabled us to win in the end. We can be satisfied with certain aspects and less satisfied with others.”

Blanc conceded a defeat would have dented his team’s confidence.

“Confidence comes when you win, so in that respect the result was a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of teams lose their first warm-up. We’re not yet ready for June 11, physically we’re not ready, which explains our problems in defense,” he said.

Despite the scare, Sochaux-Montbeliard midfielder Marvin Martin put a positive spin on the performance.

“It was difficult, but it’s fine, we saw a team that didn’t let go. We continue our positive set of results. Friendly games are played at international level and defensively they [Iceland] weren’t bad,” Martin said.

“After eight days of training, we all had heavy legs. That, with the heat, weighed against us, but after, we felt better and better. It was very important to win. We showed character and showed that we were ready physically because we made the diference at the end of the match,” Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri said.

“We’re still in the preparation stage,” Benzema said. “We’ll be ready as expected for June 11.”

MEXICO 2, WALES 0

AFP, EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY

Aldo de Nigris scored two goals and Mexico, preparing to open their 2014 World Cup qualifying campaign next month, blanked Wales on Sunday in an international friendly.

De Nigris scored a header off a cross from Pablo Barrera in the 42nd minute and netted the clincher in the 89th minute off his chest, deflecting a cross into the penalty area by Edgar Andrade.

Wales manager Chris Coleman remains without a victory since taking over the national side following the death of former Wales manager Gary Speed in November last year.

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