SHARE
COPY LINK
WORLD CUP

RIBERY

France end goal drought to beat Belarus

The goal-drought is finally over. After five matches without scoring France finally found the net on Tuesday, when they came from behind to beat Belarus 4-2 in a their World Cup qualifier. France are now level with Spain at the the top of the group.

France end goal drought to beat Belarus
Franck Ribery scores a penalty for France against Belarus on Tuesday. Photo:Franck Fife/AFP

Franck Ribery netted a brace as France twice came from behind to win Tuesday's World Cup qualifier in Belarus 4-2, ending a run of five games without a goal for Didier Deschamps's side.

Despite setting a new national record for the longest goalscoring drought, France came alive in the second half to record their first win in six matches and draw level with Spain at the top of Group I, albeit having played a game more than the world champions.

A mistake from France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris had seen Egor Filipenko head Belarus in front on 32 minutes before Ribery responded with a penalty just after half-time.

More poor goalkeeping from Lloris allowed the hosts to move back in front through Timofei Kalachev, but a second Ribery strike plus goals from Samir Nasri and Paul Pogba steered France to a much-needed victory.

"We are very happy to have had a second half as good as that and to have scored four goals because it has been a long time since we scored," said Ribery, who had been an injury concern prior to the game.

"Patrice Evra gave a good speech in the dressing room, a man's speech. He said we had to play, to relax. We have great respect for Belarus but we are the France team all the same.

"We showed character, we were united. If we wanted to finish second, we needed a big second half. We weren't scared but it's true we equalised and then conceded the second goal very quickly after.

"After my second goal, I was very happy that Samir (Nasri) came on and had such an impact," added Ribery.

France moved onto 14 points from seven matches, level with Spain, who were not in qualifying action on Tuesday, as Les Bleus guaranteed themselves second-place in the group and a potential play-off berth.

Deschamps opted to axe beleaguered striker Karim Benzema from France's starting line-up, deploying Arsenal's Olivier Giroud as the lone man up front, with Benzema finally paying the price for a dreadful run of form that had seen him go 1,217 minutes without a goal for his country.

Gael Clichy replaced Evra at left-back, while Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi were recalled after suspension to anchor the French midfield as Deschamps made four changes to the side that drew 0-0 in Georgia on Friday.

Sergei Balanovich almost gave the hosts a dream start, flashing a shot narrowly wide of the far post from an acute angle after shrugging off a challenge from Eric Abidal.

Laurent Koscielny then saw a close-range effort deflected onto the roof of the net after Belarus struggled to clear a corner.

France broke the previous national record for consecutive minutes played without a goal by surpassing the 500-minute mark midway through the opening period.

The visitors then found themselves behind just after the half-hour as Lloris allowed a tame Filipenko header to slip through his fingers.

However, Ribery hauled France level two minutes into the second half as he coolly converted a penalty after being brought down in the box by Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Veremko.

The goal was France's first since a 3-1 win against Georgia at the Stade de France back in March, ending a run of 526 minutes without finding the net.

However, Belarus went in front for a second time on 57 minutes as Lloris's miserable evening continued when he let Kalachev's 25-yard strike sneak in at his near post.

The home side's lead didn't last for long, though, as Ribery ghosted in at the far post to turn in Mathieu Valbuena's teasing cross for his second of the night.

Nasri, who came on for Dimitri Payet, then completed the turnaround as he squeezed a shot beyond Veremko from just outside the area on 70 minutes before Pogba capped the comeback shortly after, stabbing home at the back post after a mix-up in the Belarus defence.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

FOOTBALL

France plans to keep growing women’s game after World Cup disappointment

France faces the challenge of continuing to develop women's football after the bitter disappointment of elimination from the World Cup by the United States.

France plans to keep growing women's game after World Cup disappointment
France players after the defeat against USA. Photo: AFP

“Back to Earth” was how sports daily L'Equipe put it after the host nation lost 2-1 to the holders in a quarter-final played out before a feverish crowd in Paris.

L'Equipe talked of “the disappointment of a shattered adventure” because coach Corinne Diacre's team had dreamt of emulating the men, World Cup winners in Russia last year and also winners as hosts in 1998.

The team had been desperate to make it to Lyon, where the semi-finals and final will be played and where seven of those who featured for France on Friday play their club football for Europe's top side.

Instead, France find themselves out of a fifth straight major tournament in the quarter-finals. To rub salt into the wounds, Friday's defeat had the knock-on effect of denying them a place at next year's Olympics.

Diacre had been set the objective of reaching the final, which always looked a daunting challenge once the draw raised the likelihood of an early meeting with the USA.

Amid the dejection on Friday, Diacre stated her wish to continue, and on Saturday French Football Federation (FFF) President Noel Le Graet confirmed she would stay.

“She will be in charge until the end of her contract, if not longer,” Le Graet told AFP.

That means until Euro 2021 in England at least, and the aim in France is to keep developing the women's game to give them a chance of one day going all the way.

The FFF hope the number of registered female players will reach 200,000 next year, an increase of almost 10 percent from present figures, but far from the two million registered male players.

They have also promised to invest 15 million euros into a post-World Cup “legacy” fund.

The interest in the women's game is there, as shown by television audiences during the World Cup, with 11.8 million watching the USA game on terrestrial TV.

However, translating that to an increased following in the women's domestic league will be a bigger challenge.

France games have drawn sell-out crowds at the World Cup, but in general attendances in domestic competition are modest at best, even if almost 26,000 saw powerhouses Lyon beat closest rivals Paris Saint-Germain earlier this year.

“We cannot go from so much enthusiasm now to league matches on poor pitches with only 120 fans,” said Le Graet. “We all need to make an effort and we will.”

Matches are televised, but like elsewhere income remains light years from rights deals in the men's game — a new sponsorship contract for the 12-club top flight with chemicals company Arkema is worth one million euros per season for three years.

Average salaries are reportedly around 3,500 euros per month, although stars like Amandine Henry and Wendie Renard are believed to earn almost 10 times that at Lyon, who have won the Champions League in the last four years. Again, those sums are dwarfed by the wages often on offer to the men.

“We need to keep putting money in, keep professionalising, because other countries are doing it and maybe that's why they are ahead of us,” warned Lyon and France forward Eugenie Le Sommer.

“We have a good league but unfortunately not every team is professional.

“There are countries who are ahead of us and we must catch up. Even Spain are putting lots of money in and we need to make sure we are not left behind.”

READ ALSO: France coach laments 'failure' as hosts knocked out of World Cup

SHOW COMMENTS