New-look France lose

New-look France lose
By Eurosport

12/08/2010 at 07:12Updated 12/08/2010 at 07:50

Laurent Blanc got an early taste of the agonies of international management as his new-look France side slumped to a 2-1 defeat against Norway in Oslo.

The new era looked to be off to a flier as Blanc's half-time substitute Hatem Ben Arfa lashed in a 25-metre shot after being on the pitch for less than three minutes.

That cheered the former Bordeaux coach as he seeks to try and banish the memories of a dismal World Cup campaign that ended in humiliation for France.

The entire squad who took part in the training boycott in South Africa were missing for this game - and with six new caps, that lack of experience started to tell.

Norway's Erik Huseklepp levelled after 51 minutes, with a shot from the right of the penalty area that debutant Stephane Ruffier should have saved.

And the same player struck again after 71 minutes, profiting from from slack French passing to race clear and score.

France is no stranger to revolutions, and that is the only way to describe what Blanc is being almost forced to push through with the national side.

Very few tears were shed by a disillusioned home public when the whole World Cup party was dropped for this match after their dismal showing in South Africa.

But while the likes of suspended captain Patrice Evra, a principal architect in the player training boycott, were forced to watch this contest on television, opportunity knocked for others.

Blanc, as well as bringing in several players back out of the cold, also gave no fewer than six players their full international debuts in Oslo.

These included striker Guillaume Hoarau, goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier, defenders Aly Cissokho and Adil Rami, and midfielders Yann M'Vila and Charles N'Zogbia.

France enjoyed the better of the opening 45 minutes, and someone of the calibre of Nicolas Anelka, reportedly the cause of the summer flashpoint, might have put them ahead from one of several good chances.

Hoarau was first to get a sight of goal, but headed straight at Jon Knudsen, and Loic Remy could only do the same from an even better position after being superbly set up by Charles N'Zogbia.

Sissoko sliced one shot horribly high and wide after being set up by Arsenal's Samir Nasri, but did much better shortly afterwards, bringing a smart save from Knudsen with his volley heading for the top corner.

When Norway threatened it was invariably lone striker Mohammed Abdellaoue at the heart of things, his battle with Philippe Mexes seeing no quarter given.

He headed one effort wide, and backheeled another just before the break against the legs of Ruffier.

But the match caught fire after the break. France substitute Ben Arfa stated his claim for a regular place with a superb long-range goal after 48 minutes.

Norway were quick to respond, Huseklepp the happy beneficiary of some sloppy goalkeeping to plunder an equaliser just three minutes later.

And it was Huseklepp again, after Lassana Diarra had given the ball away, who raced clear to round Ruffier and score the winner.

Blanc has the option of bringing back most of his World Cup squad should he so wish, and he will have plenty to ponder before the serious business of qualifying for Euro 2012 starts.

For Norway, this was a moral-raising win before their hard work begins to reach what would be only their second Euro finals.