France maintains revival by winning at England

France provided further evidence of its post-World Cup recovery

Wednesday with a 2-1 friendly victory that gave coach Fabio Capello

his first home loss since taking charge of the England team almost

three years ago.

Karim Benzema beat England goalkeeper Ben Foster at his near

post after 16 minutes and Mathieu Valbuena’s volley put the

rejuvenated French further ahead in the 55th.

While substitute Peter Crouch reduced the deficit in the 86th

after connecting with Ashley Young’s corner, the scoreline didn’t

reflect how the French outplayed a makeshift England side, which is

still rebuilding after its own World Cup failure.

Laurent Blanc has led France to four straight wins since

becoming coach, including a trio of 2012 European Championship

qualifiers.

”We very much bossed the first half and turned that excellent

play into a goal,” Blanc said through a translator. ”We talked

before about how we would take the game to England because they are

a very physical side … we managed to impose our own ideals.

”We kept the ball on the deck, retained possession and managed

to match them blow for blow in the individual battles.”

England, though, slumped to its first loss since exiting the

World Cup in the second round.

”We could do better – we didn’t really pass the ball and we

didn’t really get going until the last 15 minutes,” England

captain Rio Ferdinand said. ”We didn’t play to our strengths

today. We didn’t control the ball and we didn’t retain possession.

There are things to work on when we next meet up. There’s room for

improvement.”

When the French last visited Wembley – and secured a 2-0 win –

they were world champions and were a year away from winning Euro

2000. They returned to a rebuilt stadium 11 years on, following an

embarrassing World Cup display with several key players still

suspended for their role in a mutiny during the tournament.

”We are still building for sure,” Blanc said. ”Something like

this gives us confidence to speed that process up a bit … we feel

a little bit more optimistic after tonight.”

Initially, they were on the back foot with England earning a

free kick after a minute. But Steven Gerrard’s low strike caused

little trouble for goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and England was rarely in

control again.

Foster produced a couple of saves to deny Malouda and a dipping

25-yard (meter) strike from Yoann Gourcuff before the French beat

the goalkeeper on his first England appearance in a year.

The goal came from a player untainted by France’s first-round

exit in South Africa. Benzema took the ball on the edge of the

penalty area and had two touches before playing a one-two with

Malouda and easily beating Foster. It was the Real Madrid striker’s

11th goal in 32 international appearances.

England was being comprehensively outplayed, unable to assert

itself on the visitors, who controlled the midfield through Samir

Nasri and Gourcuff.

Much had been made by Capello about the youthful, experimental

composition of this side – with an injury-crisis up front,

including the loss of Wayne Rooney, leading to striker Andy Carroll

being handed his debut.

The 21-year-old Newcastle player’s first shot in the 32nd was

scuffed straight into the goalkeeper’s arms. Carroll, though, was

showing glimpses of the powerful influence Capello hoped he would

be, with a header setting up Gerrard for a shot that went wide.

”(Carroll) will be a player who’ll be important for the

future,” Capello said. ”When he received the ball he played

quickly, and his movement every time was dangerous.”

Capello rang in the changes at half time, with Ferdinand

replaced by Micah Richards, and midfielders Theo Walcott and Gareth

Barry replaced by Adam Johnson and Ashley Young.

The changes didn’t prevent England’s defense being ripped apart

again 10 minutes after the break, with the home side conceding

possession on the halfway line and Bacary Sagna breaking down the

right flank before crossing to Valbuena, who netted his second

international goal on his seventh appearance.

The English only began pressing after both teams had made

further changes with 20 minutes remaining, and threatened to make a

late comeback.

But the home side couldn’t follow up Crouch’s goal with an

equalizer as Jay Bothroyd headed over in stoppage time on his

debut. Sunderland midfielder Jordan Henderson also made little

impact as he earned his first cap, playing the full match.

”It is important for me that some young players play here at

Wembley against a good team like France,” Capello said.

Lineups:

England: Ben Foster, Phil Jagielka, Rio Ferdinand (Micah

Richards, 46), Joleon Lescott, Kieran Gibbs (Stephen Warnock, 72),

Theo Walcott (Adam Johnson, 46), Jordan Henderson, Gareth Barry

(Gareth Barry, 46), James Milner, Steven Gerrard (Peter Crouch,

84), Andy Carroll (Jay Bothroyd, 72).

France: Hugo Lloris, Bacary Sagna (Anthony Reveillere, 86),

Philippe Mexes (Mamadou Sakho, 46), Adil Rami, Eric Abidal, Samir

Nasri, Yoann Gourcuff (Guillaume Hoarau, 85), Yann M’Vila, Florent

Malouda (Dimitri Payet,77), Mathieu Valbuena (Alou Diarra, 68),

Karim Benzema (Loic Remy, 68).