France held 0-0 by Romania in Euro qualifier
BUCHAREST, Romania (AP)
France drew 0-0 with Romania to have its lead at the top of Group D cut to a point in Euro 2012 qualifying on Tuesday.
Romania troubled the 2000 European champions with its commitment while France struggled in its buildup play on a pitch that quickly deteriorated.
France tops Group D with 17 points, one clear of Bosnia-Herzegovina which beat Belarus 1-0.
The draw did little for third-place Romania's hopes of qualifying as it trails Bosnia-Herzegovina by four points.
''It is a shame we didn't beat France,'' Romania coach Victor Piturca said. ''It would have been a cause for national pride... But a draw with France is still something.''
France remains unbeaten in its last 13 matches and will host Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina next month in its last two qualifiers.
''We have regrets since we didn't manage to score the goal that would have allowed us to take three points,'' France coach Laurent Blanc said.
''We didn't manage to break forward as quickly as I had hoped, but the state of the pitch played a big role in it... Romania clearly had the advantage from this.''
Blanc revamped his team by dropping five players who started in the unconvincing 2-1 win over Albania last Friday.
Anthony Reveillere, Samir Nasri, Alou Diarra and Florent Malouda were on the bench while Younes Kaboul had to watch the match from the stands after his shaky performance in Tirana.
Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Yohan Cabaye, Marvin Martin and Mathieu Valbuena took their places.
The move did not pay off in the first half as Romania's determination prevailed over France's creativity.
Romania defender Dorin Goian and France centerback Rami locked horns in the 26th minute when they were jostling for position at a free kick.
France struggled to win the ball in midfield as the hosts often outnumbered them and Romania made up for its awkward passing game by testing the French defense on set pieces.
Banel Nicolita forced goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into making a reflex save with a bouncing free kick that had eluded the France defense after four minutes.
The Romania midfielder then curled another free kick from 30 yards (meters) that Lloris tipped over the bar in the 28th.
France's first scoring chance came in the 10th when winger Valbuena headed over the bar a free kick from Martin.
Les Bleus struggled to develop plays on a poor pitch until Franck Ribery charged down the left flank in the 34th to make a cross for Karim Benzema, who headed wide.
France kept pushing for the opening goal in the second half.
Cabaye made an interception in the 63rd only to fire wide from the edge of the box.
Sagna then fed Ribery in the 67th and the Bayern Munich winger skipped past three defenders with a dribbling move to drag his shot inches wide of the post.
Romania replied in the 68th when substitute Bogdan Stancu escaped Sagna's marking to pull the ball back for Ciprian Marica but France defender Eric Abidal beat the Schalke forward to the ball to clear the danger.
France: Hugo Lloris; Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Eric Abidal, Patrice Evra; Yohan Cabaye (Samir Nasri, 75), Yann M'Vila, Marvin Martin; Mathieu Valbuena (Loic Remy, 71), Karim Benzema, Franck Ribery.
Romania: Ciprian Tatarusanu; Srgian Luchin, Dorin Goian, Vlad Chiriches, Razvan Rat; Banel Nicolita, Alexandru Bourceanu, Costin Lazar (Bogdan Stancu, 44); Razvan Cocis, Ciprian Marica (Gheorghe Bucur, 91), Cristian Tanase.
Associated Press writers Alison Mutler in Bucharest and Trung Latieule in Paris contributed to this report.