Domenech praises French 'panache' despite struggle

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The Independent Football

Raymond Domenech praised his players' application after watching France struggle to overcome Costa Rica 2-1 in Lens on Wednesday.

France toiled for much of the evening, falling behind to a Carlos Hernandez strike before battling back to win with goals from Franck Ribéry and debutant Mathieu Valbuena.

"The desire to win came at the conclusion of a week of work together," said Domenech, who also pointed to a spell of high-altitude training in Tignes as a factor for a jaded display. "It was not easy to prepare for an international match after Tignes but they confirmed what they wanted to do. When they have that faith and desire they do not feel tired. They pleased the fans, they are satisfied, happy and less tired."

Although the final score did not reflect it, France were more fluent going forward than in recent internationals. "I told them to let go and try to create," he added. "It is a warm-up game, there will be others. But I would like them to keep this desire, abandon and panache."

Domenech was boosted by a 45-minute appearance on Wednesday night from central defender William Gallas, who is battling back from a calf injury. Valbuena was another man to catch the eye. The Marseilles midfielder grabbed a fine winner with seven minutes to go, taking Abou Diaby's pass and cracking in a shot from 25 yards. "I think for a first game, it could have not gone any better," Valbuena said. "I scored and the team won."

Meanwhile, Robin van Persie was satisfied with his two-goal return for the Netherlands in their 2-1 friendly win against Mexico in Freiburg on Wednesday. The 26-year-old striker had not played for the Oranje since rupturing ankle ligaments in a friendly against Italy in November. He scored his goals during a dominant first-half display, and while he was indebted to a pair of defence-splitting assists by midfield duo Rafael van der Vaart and Ibrahim Afellay, he converted both chances with unerring confidence.

"The assists of Van der Vaart and Afellay were amazing," Van Persie said. "It wasn't too much of a problem to find the net after their great passes. This Dutch team really is of very high quality. We were quite impressive for the majority of the first half and we have shown what we're capable of."

The Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk made the final cut to his 23-man World Cup squad yesterday, with Orlando Engelaar, Vurnon Anita, Ron Vlaar and Jeremain Lens all told they will not be required in South Africa.