Nigeria stun France
© AFP

France coach Raymond Domenech suffered another blow to his authority on Tuesday as Nigeria beat France 1-0 in an international friendly in St Etienne.

Joseph Akpala scored the only goal of the game, the 22-year-old Club Brugge striker scoring in the 32nd minute after Ikechukwu Uche's shot had come off the bar and hit French goalkeeper Steve Mandanda's heel. Domenech conceded that his side had lacked freshness, though he admitted the Nigerians had also had a long hard season, and that in the first half especially his team had struggled to assert themselves.

"We suffered a little in terms of organisation in the first-half," said Domenech, who has come under increasing pressure since France went out of UEFA Euro 2008 at the first hurdle. "We opted to play attacking football, to give the crowd pleasure without putting together a coherent strategy."

We opted to play attacking football, to give the crowd pleasure without putting together a coherent strategy,
France coach Raymond Domenech.

The crowd reacted furiously to the goal and started jeering and booing the French side, who had welcomed back from the international wilderness captain Patrick Vieira and Chelsea's Florent Malouda. However, neither shone with Vieira especially static in midfield on what was a sad 107th appearance for the former Arsenal star.

Vieira, who has had another injury-ravaged season at Inter Milan, accepted that neither the team nor himself had played to their best potential. "The result is bad. The match was difficult. We just weren't there in the first half. We were not tactically strong," said Vieira. "It was also a moderate match for me personally. I could have done better but I did the most I physically could."

The hosts failed to rouse their supporters and it took fully an hour for them to even summon up 'Allez les Bleus' as with the exception of Franck Ribery and Nicolas Anelka few of the other players impressed. Debutant Loic Remy went closest to levelling the match as the Nice striker's shot hit the post two minutes from the end.

Hostile home crowd
Domenech was never going to be warmly received in St Etienne as he formerly played for their bitter historical rivals Lyon. Indeed when their names were announced over the public address system Domenech and present and past players of Lyon were greeted with jeers and boos from the spectators - and interest in the national side has slid so much that the ground was only two thirds full.

Domenech was furious with the way the crowd had behaved - they even cheered the Nigerians when they put together some passing movements in the first half with chants of 'Ole! Ole!'. "That (the booing) was not impressive, from the first minute, Karim Benzema, and the rest of the Lyon players were booed," commented Domenech.

"To confuse Lyon with the French team, is deplorable. This was not Lyon against St Etienne: it was France against Nigeria, even if Nigeria play in green (St Etienne play in green as well)."

Vieira too was critical of the spectators. "The whistles at the end of the match are comprehensible with regard to the team's performance," said Vieira. "What really annoys me, though, is that Sidney (Govou) is jeered when he comes on, and the other Lyon players were booed whenever they touched the ball. People seem to forget that this is the French national football team."

As for the chants of 'Ole! Ole!' Domenech was more understanding. "We were not good in the first half," admitted Domenech. "We allowed the Nigerians to pass the ball around, they could do as they liked, because we forgot the basics. I am just happy that at the moment we are playing friendlies and not for three points."

The crowd showed more decorum as they observed a minute's silence out of respect for the 228 passengers and crew of the Air France flight that disappeared over the Atlantic Ocean on its way from Rio de Janeiro to Paris on Monday.

France play a second friendly against Euro 2008 semi-finalists Turkey on Friday.