Sat, Jun 02, 2012 - Page 18 News List

‘Les Bleus’ back on track with 2-0 victory over Serbia

AFP, REIMS, FRANCE

France got their Euro 2012 preparations back on track with a convincing 2-0 victory over Serbia in Reims, France, on Thursday.

Les Bleus had toiled to beat the 131st-ranked Iceland 3-2 on Sunday, with defensive frailties exposed as they fell 2-0 behind, before coming back to win the game.

France coach Laurent Blanc insisted that the first friendly ahead of the championships in Poland and Ukraine would be about rebuilding fitness and rediscovering rhythm after a short break at the end of the season.

The second friendly showed signs that lessons had been learned.

Two goals from Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda in the opening quarter of an hour were enough to see off a largely outclassed Serbia, who are not bound for Euro 2012.

However, Blanc’s happy evening was marred by what seemed like a nasty injury to Stade Rennais midfielder Yann M’Vila, linked with a move to Arsenal.

M’Vila had his right ankle turned nastily in the first contact of the match with Dusan Tadic.

He soldiered on for a couple of minutes, but had to be replaced by Alou Diarra, his right shin immediately bandaged on his arrival in the dugout, before he was whipped away to hospital by ambulance.

However, team doctor Fabrice Bryand said initial tests on M’Vila’s injury were “quite reassuring.”

“There will be more tests on Friday, but the first examinations are quite reassuring, there’s nothing serious,” Bryand said.

“Tests were carried out on the right ankle and ligaments. We have to leave it 48 hours to settle down. There’s no fracture,” he said.

The match was France’s first since Blanc announced his final 23-man squad for Euro 2012, with Olympique Lyonnais playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and Montpellier Herault defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa the two men axed from his provisional squad, and it was two veterans who provided the goals.

In the 11th minute, Ribery kicked off a move down the left wing, injecting pace through to Gael Clichy, whose cross was parried back by Serbia goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic to the oncoming Bayern Munich midfielder, who had moved to the corner of the penalty area. The Frenchman mastered the bounce to hammer the ball back past the hapless goalkeeper.

Just four minutes later, Malouda produced a stunning left-foot shot into the corner of the net after the Serbia defense had lost the ball under pressure from Anthony Reveillere 30m out. Brkic only managed to get a fingertip, or two, on Malouda’s shot, which registered at a stunning 98kph.

Hugo Lloris was largely untroubled in the France goal, but he did produce a fine tip-over from a Branoslav Ivanovic free-kick in the 47th minute.

France play their final friendly against Estonia in Le Mans on Tuesday, with their opening Euro 2012 match coming against England in Donetsk, Ukraine, on June 11.

Serbia have failed to qualify for the championships and are building toward the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, when they come up against Croatia, Belgium, Scotland and Wales.

“We’re looking for perfection, but that doesn’t exist,” Blanc told TF1. “We had quite a few moves which resulted in chances where we scored in the first half. We were in better physical shape, but we’re not yet ready. Overall, I’m satisfied enough with this performance.”

“We tried to impose our rhythm on the game, and it’s that that made the difference,” midfielder Diarra said. “With the attacking talent that we’ve got, we managed to score very early and that helped our cause. There were positive things, lots of good movement.”

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