Norway beats France 2-1 in exhibitions
OSLO, Norway -- Laurent Blanc's first match as France's coach was no more successful than Raymond Domenech's finale.
Erik Huseklepp scored twice to lead Norway to a 2-1 exhibition victory Wednesday.
All 23 players of France's World Cup squad were dropped for the match against a non-World Cup team following their strike during training in South Africa. Initially it appeared their youthful replacements would do well, and substitute Hatem Ben Arfa scored from long range in the 48th minute.
Huseklepp tied it three minutes later, beating goalkeeper Stephane Ruffier after a free kick by John Arne Riise. Huseklepp's tiebreaking goal in the 71st minute came after France's Lassana Diarra gave away the ball. Huseklepp cut between defenders, went past Ruffier and slid the ball into an open net.
"I'm most disappointed that we couldn't hold on to the lead after the first goal. I can't be satisfied when the defense conceded two goals," said Blanc, blaming the three days spent with the team as "far too little practice time."
Still, Blanc said he was "pleased with very many" of the players, though he remained unsure how many will make his roster on a regular basis. Wigan's Charles N'Zogbia was among six players in the starting lineup to make his French national team debut, joined by Ruffier, defenders Adil Rami and Aly Cissokho, midfielders Yann Mvila and forward Guillaume Hoarau.
France captain Philippe Mexes praised the team's newfound sense of camaraderie in the wake of the strife that marred Domenech's tenure.
"It's more open now. Everyone talks to everyone else. There's a lot more contact with the coaches and staff," Mexes said. "We've only known each other for three days, but we feel like we know each other well."
Ben Arfa said that while the French performance was "encouraging for the future, it's a bit frustrating to have this result."
Blanc's decision to snub the World Cup players for his first game was widely seen as a statement that he isn't going to tolerate bad behavior.
While the match's slow tempo in the first half appeared to slightly favor France, Norway largely controlled play following the break.
"We're very satisfied, of course," Huseklepp said. "We believed in a good result, and we had a good deal of confidence in the team. We believed we could win. It's very nice to have beaten France ... despite a lot of players home after the World Cup, there are a lot of great players on the team."
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press
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