A vicious free-kick by Deng Zhuoxiang earned China a 1-0 win over France on Friday as Les Bleus slumped to a dispiriting defeat in their last 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ warm-up game.
France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was completely bamboozled by the dipping trajectory of Deng's 68th-minute strike. The hosts largely controlled the game but did not begin to threaten until they had gone behind and they sign off their pre-tournament preparations with a win, a draw and a loss after beating Costa Rica 2-1 and tying 1-1 with Tunisia.
The 2006 runners-up travel to South Africa on Saturday and begin their FIFA World Cup campaign against Uruguay on 11 June. "I'm disappointed. Losing a match, even a friendly, even a World Cup preparation match, is never nice," said France coach Raymond Domenech. "Now we have to analyse the match. I'm disappointed, particularly for the players and the public. But the World Cup is not today. It starts on June 11."
Playing on the French island of Reunion for the first time in their history, France persisted with the 4-3-3 formation that they have adopted since the start of their pre-finals training camp and, as in their last two matches, the majority of their best play came down the left.
We have to analyse the match. I'm disappointed, particularly for the players and the public. But the World Cup is not today. It starts on June 11.
Florent Malouda had a sight of goal in the first minute after his run down the inside-left channel was spotted by Nicolas Anelka but his low centre was diverted away from goal by China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng's left leg. Franck Ribery and Yoann Gourcuff both had shots from distance saved, while William Gallas saw an instinctive backheel ruled out for offside.
Gallas headed narrowly wide from a corner later in the first half but for all their territorial dominance, France were often careless in possession and lacked a cutting edge. Ribery was the source of France's most purposeful attacking play, but with just under half an hour to play he ceded his place to Andre-Pierre Gignac.
Thierry Henry and Abou Diaby also entered the fray but it was China who broke the deadlock when Deng embarrassed Lloris from 35 yards with his side's first shot on target of the game.
Zeng then had to save twice in quick succession from Govou and Henry, while Henry headed wide from Diaby's pass and Gignac curled a low effort straight into Zeng's midriff. The China goalkeeper thwarted France three times in the closing stages, pulling off good saves to deny Diaby, Gourcuff and, bravely, Henry, before Gallas miscued in front of an open goal in injury time.