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France down Albania to close on Euro 2012
Published : 07 Oct 2011 22:35:38
France made light of a glut of injury problems to outclass Albania 3-0 at Stade de France on Friday and close to within a point of a place at Euro 2012.
Laurent Blanc's side were missing first-team stalwarts including Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery and Eric Abidal but were barely troubled by an unadventurous side ranked 59 places below them in the world.
Goals from Florent Malouda and Loic Remy gave the hosts a 2-0 half-time lead, before Anthony Reveillere put the seal on a comfortable night's work with his first international goal in the 67th minute.
Bosnia-Herzegovina's 5-0 thrashing of Luxembourg prevented France from qualifying automatically, but they are now assured of at least a play-off place.
Bosnia visit Paris for the final match in Group D next Tuesday, when a draw for France will be sufficient for them to reach the finals in Poland and Ukraine next summer.
Brought into the team to replace the injured Benzema, in-form Lyon striker Bafetimbi Gomis procured the game's first sight at goal but toed the ball wide following a neat exchange with Samir Nasri.
With Albania's defence content to sit back, Yohan Cabaye shot narrowly wide from long range moments later before Malouda settled the home fans' nerves in the 11th minute with the opening goal.
Remy got free down the right and when his low cross found Malouda in space at the back post, the Chelsea man steered a first-time shot inside the left-hand post via a deflection off defender Armend Dallku.
The measure of France's comfort could be gleaned from the fact that the first Mexican wave rolled around the stadium as early as the 19th minute.
France's advertised 4-4-2 was actually a much more fluid affair and enabled them to set up semi-permanent residence in the visitors' half, with Adil Rami heading narrowly wide from a corner mid-way through the first period.
The second goal arrived seven minutes before half-time and Nasri was the architect, somehow stumbling through a succession of challenges before finding Remy, who cut in from the right and beat Ujkani at his near post.
France lost Patrice Evra and Cabaye to injury for the second half but their replacements combined for the third goal, with Marvin Martin supplying a measured through-ball for Reveillere to score from a difficult angle.
Djibril Cisse made his first France appearance since last year's World Cup with a late cameo that drew roars of approval from the home fans, as French thoughts shifted to Tuesday's decisive showdown with Bosnia.