RADES, TUNISIA: France’s preparations for the World Cup suffered a reality check here on Sunday when the 2006 finalists had to come from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw against non-South Africa-bound Tunisia.
Coach Raymond Domenech maintained his new 4-3-3 formation which he used in the 2-1 win over Costa Rica, preferring Nicolas Anelka as the starting striker in place of Thierry Henry.
France failed to assert as they had done last Wednesday and were behind by as early as the sixth minute when lax defending resulted in Isaam Jemaa tapping in past Hugo Lloris. Tunisia had the French backline on the rack two minutes later when Ben Khalfallah charged goalbound unchallenged down the centre in a one-on-one with Lloris but the danger petered out after he elected to pass to his left with the move petering out.
Domenech tinkered with his second half cast list, introducing Henry on the left and debutant Marc Planus for Ribery and Eric Abidal. France got their much sought after leveller in the 62nd minute when William Gallas headed in Yoann Gourcuff’s floating 30m freekick from close range, a welcome fillip for central defender Gallas who is back in World Cup contention after a calf injury.
The Arsenal back and Gourcuff were two of the few bright points of France’s performance. France have one remaining warm-up, against China in Reunion on Friday, before their World Cup campaign opens on June 11 against Uruguay.
Cole hopeful of making 23 cut
Joe Cole may well have done enough to earn himself a place in England’s World Cup but the midfielder is still on tenterhooks, along with so many of his team-mates, as manager Fabio Capello maintains radio silence on his final selection. With rivals such as Tom Huddlestone and Darren Bent failing to take their chances in similar fashion and others such as Stephen Warnock, Matthew Upson, Michael Dawson, Adam Johnson and Scott Parker not even getting on the pitch it looks good for Cole, who began to recover his form at the end of the season at tamford Bridge, helping Chelsea win the Premier League and FA Cup Double’.
His display in the hole’ behind Wayne Rooney in the second half against Japan, in which he helped England come from 1-0 down to win 2-1, has now catapulted him to the ranks of probables’ to travel to South Africa, when Fabio Capello will reduce his squad from 30 to 23 today.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 1st, 2010.
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