France beats Costa Rica in friendly
Mathieu Valbuena scored on his international debut as France beat Costa Rica 2-1 in a World Cup warmup on Wednesday, with Raymond Domenech's team showing encouraging signs in a new attacking formation.
The Marseille winger hit a low shot past goalkeeper Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas in the 83rd minute after coming off the bench in the second half.
Carlos Hernandez gave Costa Rica the lead in the 12th minute with a low shot which bounced under the body of France goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.
France equalized when Franck Ribery's cross from the left deflected in off defender Douglas Sequeira.
Arsenal defender William Gallas played his first match since March 31 after recovering from a calf injury, and was replaced by Sebastien Squillaci at halftime.
Domenech switched to a 4-3-3 formation, dropping his usual two holding midfielders and picking Nicolas Anelka in attack.
Domenech has long favored a cautious 4-2-3-1 lineup with Jeremy Toulalan and Lassana Diarra shielding the defense, but Domenech had a rethink after Diarra went home last week because of a genetic red-blood cell disorder.
In the 10th minute, Florent Malouda's pass cut through the Costa Rica defense and Sidney Govou forced a good save from Navas.
Ribery made it 1-1 in the 22nd when Toulalan won the ball, advanced to edge of the area and slipped the ball to Ribery moving down the left, and Ribery's attempted pass deflected off Douglas Sequeira and rolled past Navas.
Mandanda redeemed himself somewhat midway through the first half with a fine tip-over save from Bryan Ruiz's curling shot, but France again showed a glaring weakness on set-pieces when Ruiz's header hit the crossbar in the 34th minute.
Bordeaux's Yoann Gourcuff and Chelsea's Florent Malouda were either side of Toulalan in a new midfield.
Fitness allowing, the back four Domenech used against Costa Rica are likely to be Domenech's defense in South Africa, with Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna at right back, Barcelona's Eric Abidal alongside Gallas in the center, and Manchester United's Patrice Evra at left back.
The crowd gave the players a huge cheer when each name was read out, but Domenech was jeered, as was the case at every game during the qualifiers.
The French fans gave a raucous and heartfelt rendition of the national anthem "La Marseillaise", a far cry from the groans, jeers, whistles and insults at Stade de France during the tense World Cup qualifiers.
Thierry Henry replaced Anelka at half time in a straight swap, with Domenech keeping the same formation.
Arsenal defender Bacary Sagna missed a good headed chance early in the second half, Henry almost scored in the 58th when he ran onto Ribery's pass and clipped a shot wide of the post, and Gourcuff hit one powerful shot wide.
Valbuena came on with 25 minutes to go, and soon shot wide after cutting in from the right. Having adjusted his sights, he gathered a pass from Ribery and neatly slotted the ball into the left corner in the 83rd.
Navas had made a superb point-blank save from Sebastien Squillaci with 20 minutes remaining as France wasted chances.
France: Steve Mandanda, Bacary Sagna, William Gallas (Sebastien Squillaci, 46), Eric Abidal, Patrice Evra, Yoann Gourcuff, Jeremy Toulalan (Alou Diarra, 46), Florent Malouda (Abou Diaby, 77), Sidney Govou (Mathieu Valbuena, 65), Nicolas Anelka (Thierry Henry, 46), Franck Ribery (Andre-Pierre Gignac, 84).
Costa Rica: Keylor Navas, Douglas Sequeira, Gonzalo Segares, Roy Myrie (Cristian Gamboa, 65), Junior Diaz, Randall Azofeifa, Michael Barrantes, Carlos Hernandez (Cristian Bolanos, 57), Bryan Ruiz (Diego Madrigal, 90), Marco Urena (Diego Estrada, 76), Josue Martinez (Winston Parks, 42).