Pitch frustrates France in Romania

France extended their unbeaten run to 13 games but struggled to a 0-0 draw against Romania in a match spoiled by the appalling state of the pitch at the National Arena.

The official unveiling of the 55,000-seat venue attracted a sell-out crowd but there was little for the fans to get excited about with chances at a premium for both sides.  

France coach Laurent Blanc will be concerned by the display of his team after making five changes to the line-up that won in Albania on Friday, and with Bosnia and Herzegovina beating Belarus, the French lead at the top of Group D is now just a single point with two games remaining.  

Bacary Sagna, Adil Rami, Yohan Cabaye, Marvin Martin and Mathieu Valbuena all came in for Les Bleus, with Florent Malouda and Samir Nasri among those dropping out.  

However the visitors were all over the place in the opening minutes, and were lucky not to fall behind when a completely unmarked Dorin Goian failed to convert Banel Nicolita’s free-kick from point-blank range.  

Another Nicolita free-kick almost caught out Hugo Lloris just before the half-hour mark, with the Lyon shotstopper having to back-pedal rapidly to turn the ball over the bar.  

Romania came into the game in fourth place in the group and in desperate need of a win but, for all their endeavour, they struggled to impose themselves on their more experienced opponents.  

France enjoyed almost two-thirds of the possession in the first half but playing the kind of eye-catching football that Blanc had demanded beforehand proved impossible on a simply dreadful surface.  

The pitch cut up horribly and was responsible for the injury that forced Romania’s Costin Lazar off before half-time, while France left-back Patrice Evra appeared lucky to escape a serious injury when his ankle was swallowed up by the turf.  

Evra was able to carry on in a second period which saw France finally threaten when Yohan Cabaye’s shot from just outside the box flashed wide of goalkeeper Ciprian Tatarusanu’s left-hand post.  

Shortly after, Franck Ribery turned brilliantly in the box before sending a low shot across the face of goal and just wide of the far post.  

Lloris remained largely untroubled at the other end, and Romania, who lie four points behind the second-placed Bosnians, are now all but eliminated from next summmer’s European Championship finals.  

Meanwhile, for all their undoubted problems, a win and a draw in their last two matches at home to Albania and Bosnia next month will guarantee France’s finals berth.

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