France impress in warm-up win over Norway
By S. Willis
A dominant France side kicked off their World Cup preparations with a comprehensive 4-0 win over Norway at the Stade de France on Tuesday, OM's Mathieu Valbuena the man-of-the-match with three assists.
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Stade de France, Paris
France 4 - 0 Norway
Coach Didier Deschamps said before the match that he wanted his side to emulate the conquering mindset that saw them overturn a 2-0 first-leg loss to Ukraine in the play-offs and his charges duly obliged, dominating and opening the scoring through Paul Pogba (15') before Olivier Giroud (51', 69') and substitute Loïc Rémy (67') rounded out the emphatic win in the second half.
Relative newcomer Antoine Griezmann of Real Sociedad impressed early as his strong positional play found him in place for a brace of early chances, but it was Juventus midfielder Pogba who broke the deadlock as he headed home unmarked from a superb Valbuena cross (15').
'Keeper Stéphane Ruffier - earning just his second cap - was left with little to do in the early stages as the midfield trio of Pogba and Paris Saint-Germain pair Blaise Matuidi and Yohan Cabaye bossed matters in the middle of the park, but the Saint-Etienne glovesman proved equal to the task when tested by former Rennes midfielder Alexander Tettey (39') and Tom Högli (42').
Norway's fightback didn't last long, however, the Scandinavians showing signs of the lack of inspiration that dogged them in World Cup qualifying. And just six minutes into the second term, Valbeuna was at it again as he floated a ball to Giroud, who took a touch and let the ball sit up before punting a dipping volley over Orjan Nyland's left shoulder (51').
The calm, assured strike was symptomatic of France's play and, with the pace of 65th-minute substitute Rémy down the right increasing the danger, it wasn't long before Newcastle's former Lyon and Marseille striker latched onto a sublime Mathieu Debuchy pass, raced past his man and beat Nyland with an early shot to the near post (67').
However, at 3-0 down, the nightmare was not yet over for Norway, who conceded a fourth - once again thanks to the work of Valbuena - as Arsenal's Giroud looped a superb angled header over Nyland from close range (69'). A convincing win to open France's run of World Cup warm-up encounters, especially in the absence of big names Franck Ribéry (back) and Karim Benzema (rested), and now it remains to be seen what changes Deschamps will ring in their next match, against Paraguay at the Allianz Riviera in Nice on Sunday, June 1.