France coast into deciding qualifier with 3-0 win over Albania

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The fact that all the build-up was about France’s unfamiliar lineup told you everything about Albania’s chances in this qualifier: rien. While I was anxious to see how the attackers would gel, this was always a game which France could build on for next week’s top of the table decider. That didn’t mean I expected France to come out of the gates so well.

It was very clear that Les Bleus were in control and at ease. Gomis was a natural pivot man at the top of the formation, playing with his back to goal. Rémy was abusing his defender with his pace down the right side and Nasri was confidently pulling the strings.

So, I was suppose it wasn’t much a surprise when the early goal came, but with France for so long starved of such gifts, I was still somewhat shocked! Do these things happen to France now? A little bit of luck is a great friend indeed at this level. Rémy powered his way into possession and burned past his defender. His cross whipped in, and all of a sudden France were teeing up to meet it. Malouda struck it first time with his left foot and a deflection carried it right past a helpless Ujkani, who probably had the shot covered. 11 minutes gone, 1-0 and my £4 bottle of red tastes all right! Sadly for Malouda, that was his only contribution of the night–some things never change!

It should have been 2, but Rami missed a gimme header off a corner as Ujkani misjudged the flight of the ball. France were already well in control and Nasri was at the heart of it. I was impressed with his composed play. He’d come under some pressure from Blanc recently but he’s shrugged it off and played very calmly tonight–not overplaying anything. Well, he almost did once, but got away with it and turned it into a brilliant assist. He danced around 3 or 4 Albanians before playing in Rémy down the right side of the box. Rémy looked to be running out of room but his blasted shot nutmegged Ujkani and went in off his leg for 2-0 after 38 minutes. It wouldn’t be the keeper’s last mistake.

Lloris almost gifted Albania a reply on 40 minutes when he dove to save a shot that was several yards wide only to concede a corner. He then got caught hanging back on his line and an Albanian was there to make contact with the corner but it simply dropped into Lloris’s hands. That was it for Albania and it was 2-0 at halftime.

Blanc can add a few more injuries to his list as first Evra was replaced by Reveillere at halftime and then Cabaye came off after 2 minutes after he couldn’t shake off a first half ankle knock. Marvin Martin came on to replace him and looked very lively.  It was a shame for Cabaye though, who had been very solid in his playmaking role–he leaves me wanting to see more of him.

It was business as usual for France in the 2nd half–I could get used to that–and the pressure slowly built on the Albanian goal. No surprise then when on 66 minutes, Martin’s silky passing produced the assist as he unlocked the defence and released Reveillere who somehow squeezed his shot by Ujkani at the near post. Tsk tsk.

By this point, the Stade de France crowd wanted only one thing–Cissé! Blanc acquiesced and brought him on to replace Gomis, who played hard, passed well but ultimately wasn’t cool enough in front of goal. Cissé ran around a bit, blazed one over and the crowd was all smiles.

Andrew would kill me if I didn’t mention Débuchy and he was very good on his debut. No problems defending, he bounded forward often and produced some nice crosses–refreshing! It will be interesting to see how adventurous he will be on Tuesday when he won’t have the luxury of facing a blunt sword. Same goes for the rest of the team. Alerte Rouge au Stade de France.

France lineup: Lloris (c), Evra (Reveillere 46), Kaboul, Rami, Debuchy, M’Vila, Cabaye (Martin 48), Nasri, Malouda, Rémy, Gomis (Cissé 80)

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