France back on Euro track with victory over Serbia

Jun 01, 2012 - 09:59
  • French midfielder Florent Malouda scores against Serbia at the Auguste Delaune stadium in Reims. PHOTO/ AFP

France got their Euro preparations back on track with a convincing 2-0 victory over Serbia here on Thursday.

Les Bleus had toiled to beat the 131st-ranked Icelanders 3-2 on Sunday, with defensive frailties exposed as they fell 2-0 behind before coming back to win the game.

France coach Laurent Blanc insisted that the first friendly ahead of the European Championship in Poland and Ukraine would be about rebuilding fitness and rediscovering rhythm after a short break at the end of the season.

And the second friendly in Reims showed signs that lessons had been learned.
Two goals from Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda in the opening quarter of an hour were enough to see off a largely outclassed Serbian outfit not bound for the Euros.

But Blanc's happy evening was marred by what seemed like a nasty injury to Rennes midfielder Yann M'Vila, linked with an off-season move to Arsenal.

M'Vila had his right ankle turned nastily in the first contact of the match with Dusan Tadic.

He soldiered on for a couple of minutes but had to be replaced by Alou Diarra, his right shin immediately bandaged on his arrival in the dugout before he was whipped away to hospital by ambulance.

But team doctor Fabrice Bryand said initial tests on M'Vila's injury were "quite reassuring".

"There will be more tests on Friday but the first examinations are quite reassuring, there's nothing serious," said Bryand.

"Tests were carried out on the right ankle and ligaments. We have to leave it 48 hours to settle down. There's no fracture."

The match was France's first since Blanc announced his final 23-man squad for the Euros, with Lyon playmaker Yoann Gourcuff and Montpellier defender Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa the two men axed from his provisional squad.

And it was two veterans who provided the goals.

In the 11th minute, Ribery kicked off a move down the left wing, injecting pace through to Gael Clichy whose cross was parried back by Serbian goalkeeper Zeljko Brkic to the oncoming Bayern Munich midfielder who had moved to the corner of the penalty area.

The Frenchman mastered the bounce back to hammer the ball back past the hapless keeper.

Just four minutes later, Malouda produced a stunning left-foot shot into the corner of the net after the Serbian defence had lost the ball under pressure from Anthony Reveillere 30 metres out from the goal posts.

Brkic only managed to get a fingertip, or two, on Malouda's shot which was registered at a stunning 98kph.

Hugo Lloris was largely untroubled in the French goal, but did produce a fine tip-over from a Branoslav Ivanovic free kick in the 47th minute.

France play their final friendly game against Estonia in Le Mans on June 5, with their opening Euro 2012 match coming against England in Donetsk, Ukraine on June 11.
Serbia have failed to qualify for the Euros and are building towards the qualifiers for the 2014 World Cup, when they will come up against the likes of Croatia, Belgium, Scotland and Wales.

"We're looking for perfection but that doesn't exist," Blanc told TF1.

"We had quite a few moves which resulted in chances where we scored in the first half. We were in better physical shape but we're not yet ready. Overall I'm satisfied enough of this performance."

Midfielder Diarra added: "We tried to impose our rhythm on the game, and it's that that made the difference.

"With the attacking talent that we've got we managed to score very early and that helped our cause. There were positive things, lots of good movements."

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