France settle for a draw against Romania

June 10th, 2008 - 3:34 am ICT by IANS  

Zurich, June 10 (DPA) France and Romania played out a dull 0-0 draw in their opening Euro Cup 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.

The result means France can’t afford to lose against world champions Italy or the Netherlands in their remaining two matches if they want to advance to the knockout stages.

“Everything is still to play for,” said France defender Willy Sagnol. “We can progress with five points. We are not happy, not upset and not disappointed.”

France coach Raymond Domenech also said he wasn’t unhappy with the point.

“We have known for the past six months that this would be a difficult group,” he said.

Romania coach Victor Piturca was naturally delighted with the result, saying that the advanced age of Les Bleus meant they weren’t able to play the high tempo game necessary to break down his defence.

“France have good players,” he said. “But some are a bit older and so tired a bit quicker at this high level.”

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.

“The result was good for us,” said Romania striker Adrian Mutu. It will give us self-confidence.”

Next up for the Romanians are Italy Friday while France face the Netherlands.

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