Wasteful France squeeze past Costa Rica 2-1

09:50, May 28, 2010      

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Newcomer Mathieu Valbuena enjoyed a dream first run out for his country by bagging the decisive goal in France's 2-1 World Cup warm-up win over Costa Rica at Lens on Wednesday.

The 1998 world champions and 2006 beaten finalists enjoyed large chunks of possession but sterile finishing cost them dearly until Valbuena produced the late winner.

Coach Raymond Domenech elected to start Arsenal central defender William Gallas and Chelsea striker Nicolas Anelka, at the expense of Thierry Henry, with Steve Mandanda replacing No 1 keeper Hugo Lloris in goal.

For Gallas this warm-up represented a searching test of his recovery from a calf injury that has kept him sidelined since March.

In Henry's absence the captain's armband was worn by Manchester United defender Patrice Evra.

Franck Ribery, suspended for his club Bayern Munich's Champions League final defeat to Inter Milan last weekend, also figured in Domenech's starting XI.

Domenech, who steps down after a roller-coaster spell as manager of France after the World Cup, was booed by some sections of the fans when his name was announced before kickoff in his last game in charge of Les Bleus on French soil.

Domenech made three changes at the start of the second half - introducing Henry (for Anelka), Alou Diarra (Toulalan) and Sebastien Squillaci (Gallas).

There was a moment of concern for the lively Ribery after the hour mark when he crumbled to the floor clutching his right ankle after an over-zealous tackle by Pablo Barrantes.

After watching Ribery rise unscathed Domenech then replaced Sydney Govou with Marseille winger Valbuena, and he had the Costa Rican defense in a panic with his very first touch of the ball.

The pocket-sized player then ensured he would remember his first game for his country for years to come when he bagged France's winner, a right-footed hammerblow after being set up by late substitute Abou Diaby, with seven minutes left.

Domenech praised the desire and motivation displayed by his side.

"That's what we want to see all the time. at least they are trying things, and want to achieve something. They know it's this group of 23 that is going (to South Africa) - they know they'll be doing it together. They have confidence in each other...but this was only a warm-up, the World Cup only begins on June 11."

France's remaining warm-up fixtures before the World Cup are an away date against Tunisia on May 30 and against China in Reunion on June 4.

They open their World Cup campaign against Uruguay on June 11.

Source:China Daily


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