France 3-1 Belarus
Étienne Capoue and Christophe Jallet, of Toulouse and PSG respectively, were only handed their international débuts during France's friendly with Uruguay last month. Neither player seemed to get a look in whilst Laurent Blanc was in charge, yet Didier Deschamps showed faith in both players and even awarded them with their first competitive appearance on Tuesday as they lined up against Belarus in the Stade de France.
Deschamps made three changes to the team that started against Finland on Friday night. Étienne Capoue was brought in to replace Abou Diaby who was left out as a precaution; Christophe Jallet came in to replace Anthony Réveillère and Olivier Giroud, who was left out of the game against Finland through injury, was Jérémy Ménez's replacement.
France opened the proceedings on the front foot and looked to break the deadlock early on. Franck Ribéry was involved heavily from the outset and looking very dangerous going forward during the opening exchanges. France's first real chance came in the 7th minute, however, as Yohan Cabaye picked out Mamadou Sakho, alone in the area from a corner. Unfortunately, Sakho could only find the goalkeepers' hands. Sergei Veremko, the Belarus 'keeper, was called into action again five minutes later. This time, Ribéry was the provider, whipping in a great cross that found Giroud at the near post. Had it not been for a fine save from Veremko, Giroud was certain to open the scoring with that headed effort. France - as was the case against Finland - were totally dominating possession yet having nothing to show for it. They tried and failed on many occasions to break down the Belarus back-line but nothing was 'clicking'. France came close to opening the scoring when Sakho, unmarked once again, headed an effort into the ground and didn't connect with the ball too cleanly. He was probably surprised at the time and space he had given the fact that he was in the six-yard box. No excuses, though - against a better side, you'd be made to pay for mistakes such as that.
Deschamps' men returned to the pitch unchanged after half-time but were found wanting as Belarus nearly took a surprising lead. They came out after the break on the offensive, trying to catch France out, and it almost paid dividends. Just one minute into the second half, a lapse in concentration débutant Jallet saw them with a clear shot on goal. Only a fine save from Hugo Lloris prevented the game swinging massively in the away sides favour. The early flourish from Belarus was soon cut short, though, as Ribéry - this time found on the right-hand side - put it on a plate for Capoue to slot home for his first international goal, on his full competitive début.
Sixty minutes in and Deschamps made his first substitution. The returning Olivier Giroud: off. Mathieu Valbuena: on. Giroud, having been kept out of France's last game against Finland due to injury, found himself back in action immediately, though he failed to grab a foothold on the game. His overall play was good; his link-up play was excellent, as usual, he just lacked service - just as Benzema did in the previous game. Karim Benzema was then left to lead the line with Valbuena slotting in on the right-hand side so as to occupy both in their favoured positions.
Little did we know, France's right-hand side was where their next goal was going to come from. Surprisingly, it wasn't Valbuena who supplied/scored it. It was the other "new guy", Christophe Jallet, with one of the best goals you'll ever see, albeit unintentional. His celebration says it all. You know that clichéd saying: "A picture paints a thousands words". It really was the case in this instance. His attempted driven cross smashed off the underside of the bar to double Les Bleus' lead. France were looking comfortable and looked like going on to score a few more before the night was out.
Belarus had other plans in mind, however. With twenty minutes left on the clock, they were handed a route back into the game as a lack of communication between Mavuba and Valbuena led to a Belarus counter-attack. Yanga-Mbiwa hauled their attacker down, only for Belarus to be awarded a penalty and see his name enter the referee's book meaning he'll miss their game against Spain next time out. Lloris was very close to producing a spectacular double-save but Belarus just about managed to scramble the ball past the Spurs 'keeper and into the France net. 2-1. 20 minutes remaining. Game on.
Franck Ribéry had other ideas, though, and won the game in style as he possessed the composure to nonchalantly chip the ball over the forthcoming Veremko with his left foot to make the score 3-1 and finally put the game to bed. Although Ribéry's finish was sublime, it was none other than Karim Benzema who was the provider; turning his man with ease, brushing aside another defender and laying it off for Ribéry to do the rest. He likes assisting people, does Karim...
In the end, France proved too powerful for Belarus and they were unable to replicate they achieved last time they faced France in the Stade de France, where they came out 1-0 winners. Les Bleus were too strong offensively, as they had been against Finland, and maintained their perfect start to their World Cup qualifying campaign. Their next opponents will prove to be a much trickier task, however, as they line up against the current European and World Champions, Spain.
Swing It In, Son!