Blanc French reign begins with defeat

New France coach Laurent Blanc insisted that he was pleased with his inexperienced team, which included eight new caps, in spite of a 2-1 defeat in a friendly against Norway on Wednesday.

Hatem Ben Arfa put France ahead shortly after half-time but two goals from Erik Huseklepp, taking advantage of French errors, took the hosts to victory. "We always play to win so when we lose we aren't satisfied," said Blanc. "But we have to overlook the score this evening as I saw some interesting things. Some players produced some quality which will help us in the future.

"I was pleased with the game. We tried to create something playing with the ball on the ground," he went on. "Unfortunately, when you play like that the slightest technical error can count against you."

Blanc, who took over after France's disastrous FIFA World Cup™ campaign, suspended all 23 of the players that went to South Africa where they finished bottom of their group and brought humiliation on the country by staging a one-day players strike.

In spite of the result, however, his makeshift side produced enough quality during the 90 minutes to suggest that they could be dangerous opponents in the UEFA EURO 2012 qualifiers.  Blanc named six new caps in the starting line-up - goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, defenders Adil Rami and Aly Cissokho, midfielders Charles N'Zogbia and Yann Mvila and striker Guillaume Hoarau.

I was pleased with the game. We tried to create something playing with the ball on the ground.
New France coach Laurent Blanc

The introduction in the second half of Yohan Cabaye and Jeremy Menez made it a total of eight new caps on the night. With Samir Nasri pulling the strings on the right, France produced most of the early pressure and almost went ahead in the 14th minute when Loic Remy got down to Charles N'Zogbia's cross from the left. But Norway goalkeeper Jon Knudsen was equal to the Nice striker's sharp header.

The 35-year-old keeper was called into action again when he had to palm Cissokho's snap shot from the edge of the area over the bar. At the other end Rami had a scare when he slid in to intercept a cross from John Arne Riise and came within a whisker of putting the ball through his own goal.

The breakthrough came three minutes after the interval when Ben Arfa, who had come on at the break for N'Zogbia, made some space and fired in a rasping shot that flew past Knudsen. The lead lasted just two minutes though as France's frailties in defence came back to haunt them once again. When Morten Gamst Pedersen sent over a free-kick from the right, Hoarau made a mess of his clearance allowing Huseklepp to steal the ball and shoot past Ruffier.

Another French mistake led to Huseklepp's second goal in the 71st minute. When Lassana Diarra carelessly lost control of a regulation pass in the centre circle, Henning Huager pounced on the error to lace a delightful ball right through the French defence. Huseklepp held off two defenders and rounded Ruffier before threading the ball into the empty net.

France open their UEFA EURO 2012 campaign against Belarus on 3 September with Norway meeting Iceland on the same day.