Pitch frustrates France in Romania

France extended their unbeaten run to 13 games but struggled to a 0-0 draw against Romania in a match spoiled by the appalling state of the pitch at the National Arena.

The official unveiling of the 55,000-seat venue attracted a sell-out crowd but there was little for the fans to get excited about with chances at a premium for both sides.  

France coach Laurent Blanc will be concerned by the display of his team after making five changes to the line-up that won in Albania on Friday, and with Bosnia and Herzegovina beating Belarus, the French lead at the top of Group D is now just a single point with two games remaining.  

Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Yohan Cabaye, Marvin Martin and Mathieu Valbuena all came in for Les Bleus, with Florent Malouda and Samir Nasri among those dropping out.  

However the visitors were all over the place in the opening minutes, and were lucky not to fall behind when a completely unmarked Dorin Goian failed to convert Banel Nicolita’s free-kick from point-blank range.  

Another Nicolita free-kick almost caught out Hugo Lloris just before the half-hour mark, with the Lyon shotstopper having to back-pedal rapidly to turn the ball over the bar.  

Romania came into the game in fourth place in the group and in desperate need of a win but, for all their endeavour, they struggled to impose themselves on their more experienced opponents.  

France enjoyed almost two-thirds of the possession in the first half but playing the kind of eye-catching football that Blanc had demanded beforehand proved impossible on a simply dreadful surface.  

The pitch cut up horribly and was responsible for the injury that forced Romania’s Costin Lazar off before half-time, while France left-back Patrice Evra appeared lucky to escape a serious injury when his ankle was swallowed up by the turf.  

Evra was able to carry on in a second period which saw France finally threaten when Yohan Cabaye’s shot from just outside the box flashed wide of goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu’s left-hand post.  

Shortly after, Franck Ribery turned brilliantly in the box before sending a low shot across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.  

Lloris remained largely untroubled at the other end, and Romania, who lie four points behind the second-placed Bosnians, are now all but eliminated from next summmer’s European Championship finals.  

Meanwhile, for all their undoubted problems, a win and a draw in their last two matches at home to Albania and Bosnia next month will guarantee France’s finals berth.

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French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage

French prosecutors on Friday called for a 15-year prison sentence for one of two Russians accused of beating a British supporter during Euro 2016, an attack that left him with brain injuries.

French prosecutors demand jail term for Russian accused of leaving England football fan with brain damage
Russian fans light flares at the match against England in 2016.. Photo: AFP

One prosecutor, Christophe Raffin, asked for the “legal maximum… between 14 and 15 years” for Pavel Kossov, who is accused of throwing the first punch at 55-year-old Andrew Bache.

Bache was injured in the violence that broke out before England played Russia in the southern French port city of Marseille on June 11th, 2016.

The second Russian on trial in Aix-en-Provence, Mikhail Ivkine, stands accused of throwing a chair at the victim, with prosecutors asking for a potential suspended sentence of up to five years.

He has claimed he was defending himself.

“No, it wasn't legitimate self-defence, it was illegitimate use of force against Andrew Bache,” Raffin said of the violence.


Police give emergency aid to Andrew Bache following clashes in the city of Marseille. Photo: AFP

The prosecutors said the Russians were part of a group of about 150 men, many with martial arts training, who wrought havoc in Marseille.

Bache, from Portsmouth in southern England, has no memory of the events and is too frail to attend the trial.

His son Harry, who nurses his father, is representing him in court.