France and Romania finish scoreless

June 10th, 2008 - 1:20 am ICT by IANS  

Zurich, June 9 (DPA) France and Romania played out a dull 0-0 draw in their opening Group C match in Zurich Monday in a game where goal chances were at a minimum. Two-time champions France pressed for much of the game but rarely threatened the Romania goal, the best chance falling to Karim Benzema on 57 minutes but the Lyon forward’s tame shot from 18 metres was easily saved by goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont.

As expected, France started with Lyon’s Jeremy Toulalan and Claude Makelele in midfield after captain Patrick Vieira failed to recover from a thigh injury in time.

However, Raymond Domenech surprisingly plumped for Eric Abidal ahead of Manchester United’s Patrice Evra at left-back while Nicolas Anelka partnered Karim Benzema up front.

Romania obviously set out their stall looking for a draw and kept France’s chances to a minimum while rarely venturing forward themselves and finished the game without creating a single chance of note.

Florent Malouda was the first to threaten for France on 17 minutes but the Chelsea midfielder narrowly lost the chase for a ball over the top of the Romanian defence to Lobont.

Franck Ribery was the only player to truly trouble a resolute Romanian defence in the first period and it was from crosses by the Bayern Munich midfielder on 33 and 43 minutes that set up chances for Anelka and Benzema, respectively, but both were spurned.

The second half began much as the first half ended with France pressing forward and Romania happy to sit back and defend.

Malouda blasted over from a narrow angle before the best chance of the game fell to Benzema with Ribery once again the creator but the 20-year-old, who is believed to be a target for Manchester United, scuffed his shot and saw it roll to Lobont.

With time running out, Domenech brought on Bafetimbi Gomis for Anelka and Samir Nasri for Benzema in an effort to break the deadlock but to no effect as the Romanians held firm to secure a valuable point.

World champions Italy and the Netherlands meet in that day’s later game in Group C.

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