The future of France coach Raymond Domenech was left hanging in the balance on Saturday after a spirited Romania took a share of the spoils in a 2-2 draw with the 1998 FIFA World Cup™ winners.
Florentin Petre and Dorin Goian scored a goal apiece in a dominant first half to leave the hosts with the advantage after Franck Ribery had managed to claw a goal back for Les Bleus in the 36th minute.
It took until the 69th minute for France to draw level thanks to a stunning 30-yard drive from Yoann Gourcuff, who chose arguably the best time to score his maiden international goal.
"I was worried in the first 15 minutes," admitted Domenech, who had to shuffle his team when skipper Patrick Vieira was injured in the warm-up. "We had a few little worries, especially because of the Vieira injury and the team was very young. But I liked the spirit we showed in the second half and we proved that we have a future in qualifying."
Barcelona forward Thierry Henry and Bayern Munich striker Franck Ribery both spurned chances late in the second half, during which France appeared to find their rhythm after a conspicuously shaky first period. But on the face of their much stronger performance, Romania were unlucky not to steal all three points.
After picking up a point each, the result will do little to boost the group hopes of either team. France and Romania both now have a paltry four points from three games.
Domenech's future as coach of the 1998 FIFA World Cup winners has been in doubt since France exited this summer's UEFA EURO Championships after the first round. Calls for his head to roll gathered pace after France were stunned 3-1 by Austria in their opening FIFA World Cup qualifier, and the were maintained despite a 2-1 home defeat of Serbia.
Win or else
Prior to this match the general feeling on Domenech's future as coach was unequivocal: win, or else. But it took only five minutes, and some slack defending, for Romania to throw a spanner into the works.
Domenech must have been wondering what was going on as Petre, left on his own just outside the penalty area, went unchallenged and met a cross that he drove past France keeper Steve Mandanda.
Barely ten minutes had passed before Goian handed the hosts a 2-0 lead after he rose above France defender Jean-Alain Boumsong to head a Petre corner past the beaten Mandanda. Bayern Munich striker Ribery managed to limit the damage, firing home a perfectly-weigted shot from a pass by Yoann Gourcuff.
Domenech and his Romanian counterpart Victor Peturca made no changes for the second half, in which France appeared to finally find their feet. Nevertheless it took until the 69th minute for Les Bleus to put themselves within sight of a win, and they did so in style.
This time Ribery turned provider for Gourcuff, who turned his marker superbly before unleashing an unbeatable dipping drive from near on 30 yards.