Belarus 1-1 France: Match Report
French coach Laurent Blanc could not hide his frustration as France laboured to a 1-1 draw at Belarus in their Euro 2012 Group D qualifier in Minsk on Friday.
France still lead the group by a healthy four points from the eastern Europeans - but Les Bleus seem intent on making heavy weather of their passage to next summer's finals in Poland and Ukraine.
Eric Abidal was back in French blue less than a week after lifting the European Cup with Barcelona at Wembley - but if the return was an emotional one in a season which saw him undergo surgery on a kidney tumour in March it was also not entirely a successful one.
The left back promptly put through his own net on 20 minutes and although Florent Malouda - playing out on the right - levelled within two minutes that was as good as it would get for the French with striker Karim Benzema seemingly having left his shooting boots at home.
The French began with a shock home loss against Belarus and Blanc, who came under fire recently over alleged proposals to introduce race quotas at youth level before an internal investigation cleared him, was clearly vexed.
"It was a disappointing match, especially in the first half. We lacked a bit of freshness - I don't think we deserved to win tonight," Blanc told French television.
"They've taken four points off us in two matches and that's a lot - yet they are not a better team than us. We came for three points and we didn't get them."
Belarus can now trim the gap next week against minnows Luxembourg before France seek to get back on track with a win in Albania, a point behind Belarus with a game in hand, at the start of September.
Blanc's men then travel to Romania, who steamrolled Bosnia 3-0 on Friday with Ciprian Marica twice on target with Adrian Mutu getting the other.
The Romanians moved level on points with Albania having played an extra game.
France finish off with their home match against the Albanians and then the Bosnians and despite Friday's stutter should easily book their passage.
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