France stage miracle comeback to beat Iceland

Posted on by SoccerPunter

France battled back from two goals down at half-time to beat Iceland 3-2 and avoid a humiliating defeat in the first of three friendly matches for Euro 2012 here on Sunday.

Iceland, ranked a lowly 131 in FIFA’s world table, stunned their hosts when Birkir Bjarnason put them into a 28th minute lead, with Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson doubling up five minutes later.

Whatever words of wisdom coach Laurent Blanc came up with at the interval evidently sank home as the second half was only seven minutes old when Lille defender Mathieu Debuchy reduced the deficit.

But France had then to wait until the 85th minute before Franck Ribery put them back on level terms with a lob for the Bayern Munich star’s first goal for his country since April, 2009.

Valencia back Adil Rami bagged the winner three minutes from time, volleying home Olivier Giroud’s knockdown to extend France’s unbeaten run to 19 matches.

France’s next prep outing is against Serbia on Thursday in Reims, with their third and final warm-up scheduled for June 5 in Le Mans against Estonia.

Blanc’s men are drawn in Group D at the European Championships and they begin their campaign in Donetsk against England on June 11 followed by co-hosts Ukraine and Sweden.

A lacklustre display by most of the French side, the one notable exception being Karim Benzema who had a good match, will give Blanc plenty to think about with only two weeks to go before battle commences in Ukraine-Poland.

He said: “We defended very badly in the first half. I changed lots of players in the second half who brought in a different style and with Iceland getting tired it enabled us to win in the end.

“We can be satisfied with certain aspects and less satisfied with others.”

Blanc conceded a defeat would have dented his team’s confidence.

“Confidence comes when you win so in that respect the result was a good thing. I’ve seen a lot of teams lose their first warm-up. We’re not yet ready for June 11, physically we’re not ready which explains our problems in defence.”

Despite the scare Sochaux midfielder Marvin Martin put a positive spin on the performance.

He reflected: “It was difficult but it’s fine, we saw a team that didn’t let go. We continue our positive set of results. Friendly games are played at international level and defensively they (Iceland) weren’t bad.”

Manchester City midfielder Samir Nasri added: “After eight days of training we all had heavy legs. That, with the heat, weighed against us. But after, we felt better and better. It was very important to win. We showed character and showed that we were ready physically because we made the difference at the end of the match.”

“We’re still in the preparation stage,” said Benzema.

“We’ll be ready as expected for June 11.”

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