France labour to beat Luxembourg
Evra and Ribery were back in the team for the first time since their misdeeds at the FIFA World Cup™ contributed to their side's humiliating first-round exit. But the result with the pair in the team was the same as the result without them as goals from Philippe Mexes and Yoann Gourcuff saw them to a 2-0 win, just as when the sides met in France in October.
It was a struggle for Les Bleus from start to finish. Indeed, it was the hosts who threatened first, as Lars Krogh Gerson got his head to Gilles Bettmer's free-kick, but Hugo Lloris made a comfortable save. At the other end, Florent Malouda got on the end of Bacary Sagna's cross, but could only deflect the ball wide from close range.
Aside from a long distance effort from Ben Payal which did not threaten Lloris, there was little in the way of goalmouth action until France broke the deadlock. It came from Samir Nasri's free-kick after Tom Laterza fouled Malouda, with Mexes nodding the ball home from six yards.
Still chances were at a premium, but as half-time approached, Luxembourg goalkeeper Jonathan Joubert was twice tested. First he parried Sagna's strike from 30 yards following Yoann Gourcuff's corner, then he turned away a shot from Karim Benzema from inside the box.
If France were hoping Luxembourg would wilt in the second half, they were to be disappointed. Les Bleus simply could not break their hosts down, despite dominating possession. The first chance of note in the second period took nearly 20 minutes to arrive, and even then it went to Luxembourg as Bettmer's effort from 12 yards was blocked by Sagna.
Moments later France did finally threaten, but Adil Rami's header from Malouda's corner was weak and into the hands of Jubert. In the 66th minute Benzema fired a rare chance wide, but six minutes later France got a second as Gourcuff fired home from the edge of the area.
Still things were not simple for France, with Benzema sending a close-range strike wide of goal, while at the other end Mario Mutsch failed to test Lloris with a free-kick from a dangerous position. With moments to go Joubert parried Franck Ribery's effort into the path of Benzema, who could not find the target with his follow-up shot.