Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 March 2018

Blanc's French reign begins with miserable defeat



France slumped to a hugely embarrassing 1-0 home defeat against Belarus in their opening qualifier yesterday in their first competitive outing since the World Cup fiasco.

Substitute Sergei Kislyak netted the winner from a Vyacheslav Hleb back-pass four minutes from time, converting Belarus' only clear chance of the game.

New French coach Laurent Blanc welcomed back to his squad nine players from the South Africa trip after they had been suspended them for a friendly in Norway last month, but it had no immediate effect as Les Bleus failed to win for the seventh consecutive time.

The home side had their best chance in the 63rd minute when a Mathieu Valbuena's volley was tipped over the bar by Yury Zhevnov.



Italy, lacking confidence and with a host of new faces, just managed to bring their seven-game win drought to an end in Tallinn. The hosts opened the scoring in the 31st minute when forward Sergei Zenjov struck after Italian 'keeper Salvatore Sirigu lost his grip on the wet ball.

While 2006 world champions Italy showed flashes of good play, they still patently lacked confidence and did not find an equaliser until the second half when forward Antonio Cassano scored in the 59th minute. Italy's winner came when defender Leonardo Bonucci tapped home from close range in the 63rd minute.


Brian Kerr's Faroe Islands team got off to a poor start in their qualification series after being well beaten at home to Serbia.

Kerr saw his team outplayed in the early stages of the game and they were a goal down when Danko Lazovic struck after just 13 minutes. The goal settled Serbia down and Dejan Stankovic then doubled their lead five minutes later. Nikola Zigic put the seal on the victory in injury-time for Serbia.

Slovenia 0 Northern Ireland 1

The new kids on the block made sure Northern Ireland got off to a flying start. Substitute Corry Evans, making his first competitive outing, scored the winner in the second half against Slovenia after getting on the end of Craig Cathcart's cross.

Cathcart was drafted in as Corry's brother, Jonny, was ruled out on the because of a groin injury. It seemed Northern Ireland might struggle without the talented Manchester United defender. Instead, they manned the barricades in a way that was nothing short of magnificent to defeat the World Cup qualifiers in their own backyard.


Liechtenstein 0 SPAIN 4

Fernando Torres scored twice to help Spain to a fine away win over Liechtenstein. Torres opened the visitors' account with a delicate chip in the 18th minute. And the Liverpool striker was on target again in the 54th minute before being substituted. David Villa and substitute David Silva scored the other goals.

Lithuania 0 Scotland 0

Scotland failed to capitalise on their territorial advantage in Lithuania as Craig Levein's competitive debut as manager ended goalless.

The Scots looked solid and comfortable in possession but they failed to find the breakthrough despite some decent opportunities. Barry Robson forced several saves from long range, Kenny Miller headed straight at the 'keeper and Steven Naismith lacked conviction when presented with a shooting chance on the edge of the box.


Montenegro 1 Wales 0

Mirko Vucinic enhanced his soaring reputation when his goal condemned Wales to defeat in Montenegro last night.

The Roma striker struck after 30 minutes to hand the hosts a deserved Group G victory against a ragged Welsh side. Wales' best moments all came in the closing minutes as Simon Church headed against the bar. Prior to that, Montenegro had carved out all the best openings at the end impressive captain Vucinic could easily have had a hat-trick.


portugal 4 cyprus 4

CypRus nicked a point at the death through Andreas Avraam as Portugal got their qualification campaign off to a poor start.

The home side had fought back impressively, but were denied the three points when Avram struck in the 89th minute.

Efstathios Aloneftis gave the visitors the lead after three minutes but Hugo Almeida equalised five minutes later for Portugal.

Michalis Konstantinou then put Cyprus back in front before goals from Raul Meireles and Danny gave Portgual the advantage again in the second half. Yiannis Okkas equalised for Cyprus but Manuel Fernandes struck on the hour as Portugal looked to have wrapped things up, before Carlos Queiroz's men were hit by the sucker punch a minute from time.


Belgium 0 Germany 1

Miroslav Klose (left) gave Germany an ideal start to their qualifying campaign with a 1-0 victory in Belgium. A defensive lapse by the hosts early in the second half allowed Thomas Muller to find the unmarked Klose just inside the penalty area and he made no mistake. Germany were second best for much of the first half with Belgium twice forcing goalkeeper Manuel Neuer into smart saves.

Irish Independent

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