Wily Blanc injects some urgency into French campaign

France 2 Romania 0

Coaches do not win matches, but Laurent Blanc deserved much of the credit for France's first home victory under his charge here last night. Nerves were starting to get the better of his team when Blanc made three crucial substitutions in the second half that changed the course of this European Championship qualifier in Group D.

Yoann Gourcuff, a playmaker who excelled under Blanc at Bordeaux, Loïc Rémy, a young striker from Marseille, and Dimitri Payet, a midfielder from St Etienne, provided just the impetus that Blanc's increasingly edgy team needed.

After 82 minutes, Alou Diarra's superb through ball sent Rémy clear and the striker found the far corner of the net with a perfectly placed shot. As France swarmed forward, Gourcuff added a second with the last kick of the match, scoring from 10 yards after a wonderful jinking run down the right by Payet.

It was no less than France deserved, though for a while it had seemed they were still affected by the repercussions of their traumatic World Cup. Blanc's team played well enough for the first hour, but as frustration got the better of them Romania worked their way back into the match and for a while threatened to steal an unlikely win.

Blanc, who took over from Raymond Domenech after France's South African débâcle, had not got off to the best of starts, with defeats in a friendly against Norway and in their opening qualifier against Belarus, but a win away to Bosnia last month put their first points on the board and this win will do much for their confidence.

Romania, it has to be said, are not the force they were in the days of Gheorghe Hagi and Gheorghe Popescu. Internazionale's Cristian Chivu, the captain, is their only current player who might be considered world-class and they have started their qualifying campaign moderately, with just two points from draws against Albania and Belarus. They have won only once in the last 11 months.

There was a promising shape to the French team. Diarra, captain for the second time under Blanc, and Yann M'Vila provided a powerful base in midfield, allowing Samir Nasri, Florent Malouda and Mathieu Valbuena the freedom to push forward in support of Karim Benzema. Nasri and Valbuena eventually gave way to Gourcuff and Rémy, but both had made good contributions.

France dominated the first half without creating more than an occasional half-chance. Nasri, making characteristically mazy runs from midfield, combined well with Benzema, who led the line with a verve that has all too often been missing at Real Madrid.

Romania were frequently stretched, but Chivu was magnificent in defence, intercepting through balls and diving in to make last-ditch blocks. Nasri set up the best opportunity of the first half when his clever chip freed Malouda on the left, but the Chelsea man fired into the side netting.

France left the field to barely justified jeers at half-time – this stadium can be hard to please – but a thrilling passage of play early in the second half brought the crowd to life. Costel Pantilimon spectacularly deflected a Valbuena shot against the bar, while Nasri made a splendid break down the left, only to go for goal when he should have pulled the ball back to Benzema.

Romania did not have an attack of note in the first half, but within a minute of the restart Bogdan Stancu's break down the left opened up the home defence and Hugo Lloris was forced to make a flying save from George Florescu. As the Romanians came out of their shell, France's back four started to creak. Ciprian Deac, a substitute, regularly found space down the right and from one of his crosses Ionut Sapunaru shot against a post.

It was time for Blanc to show his qualities. Rémy, who should have added a second when he headed Malouda's cross over the bar, was an immediate threat on the right, while Gourcuff quickly made his mark. If France can win their next match, against Luxembourg in Metz on Tuesday, their qualifying campaign will be firmly back on track.

Two goals from Niko Kranjcar gave Croatia a 2-1 win over Israel, sending them to the top of Group F. His first was from the penalty spot in the 36th minute, the second from a neat attack five minutes later. Etay Shechter's consolation goal came 10 minutes from the end.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London