KARACHI: Rookie Mathieu Valbuena enjoyed a dream first run for his country when he scored the decisive goal in France’s 2-1 friendly win over Costa Rica in Lens on Wednesday.
Raymond Domenech’s side maintained greater possession in the game only to falter as they approached the goal but thankfully for them, Valbuena came to their rescue.
Domenech elected to hand reserve goal-keeper Steve Mandanda, defender William Gallas and striker Nicolas Anelka starts at the expense of Thierry Henry and replacing first-choice keeper Hugo Lloris in goal with Patrice Evra wearing the captain’s armband.
Domenech, who steps down after the World Cup, was booed by some sections of the fans when his name was announced before kick-off in his last game in charge of Les Bleus on French soil. The Central Americans had the 1998 world champions on the backfoot on the 12th-minute mark when midfielder Carlos Hernandez let fly from 25 metres, his shot bouncing over Mandanda’s outstretched hands, putting them into a surprise early lead.
France, who thought they had equalised four minutes later only for Yoann Gourcuff’s tap in to be ruled offside, deservedly levelled in the 23rd minute when Jeremy Toulalan set up Franck Ribery whose shot from the left was deflected for an own-goal by Douglas Sequeira. Domenech then replaced Sydney Govou with the Marseille winger Valbuena, who bagged France’s winner via a right-footed hammer blow with seven minutes left after being set up by another substitute Abou Diaby. France take on Tunisia on May 30 and China on June 4.
Dutch beat Mexico
A brace from Robin van Persie before half-time ensured a 2-1 victory for the Dutch over Mexico in Fribourg.
The injury-prone Arsenal striker shot the opener after 17 minutes from Rafael Van der Vaart’s lob across the Mexican goal. At half-time, PSV Eindhoven midfielder Ibrahim Afellay provided a cross, which Van Persie met on the volley to and beat a helpless Ochoa in goal. Mexico settled down after a poor start towards the latter part of the second half with Gerardo Torrado and Andres Guardado proving lively as Javier Aguirre’s side began to look a more threatening proposition. In the 74th minute, Javier Hernandez, who will play for Manchester Untied next season, took advantage of one of the few clear-cut chances to head home a Jorge Torres cross, before the match slowed to a halt
Mexico, who lost 3-1 to England at Wembley, gave starts to Hernandez, veteran Cuauhtemoc Blanco and goal-keeper Ochoa, with defenders Rafael Marquez and Carlos Salcido and striker Guillermo Franco, who is to be released by West Ham, among those to make way.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 28th, 2010.