Another setback for France ahead of World Cup

France 0 China 1

France 0 China 1

France's World Cup preparations went from bad to worse today as they suffered a shock defeat to China.

Deng Zhuoxiang's 68th-minute goal was enough to hand Raymond Domenech and his team defeat in their third and final warm-up match, a week before their tournament opener against Uruguay.

Les Bleus were already heading to South Africa in disarray following a dismal performance in the qualifiers and their confidence has taken another knock of late.

Tonight's defeat capped a series of disappointing results which has seen them held to a 1-1 draw by Tunisia and come from behind to narrowly beat Costa Rica 2-1.

Domenech fielded the same team that had started the previous two matches and they began brightly.

They could have taken an early lead when Nicolas Anelka released Florent Malouda on the left flank and the Chelsea midfielder raced forwards before putting in a tantalising cross which China goalkeeper Zeng Cheng did well to clear.

Franck Ribery tried his luck from distance moments later with a fierce effort which took Zeng two attempts to catch and the Bayern Munich striker had another opportunity with a powerful shot which scraped past the left upright.

William Gallas, who had been a doubt before the match, thought he had opened the scoring in the 13th minute after Anelka had deflected a poor Zeng clearance into his path, but he was signalled offside.

France were clearly dominating possession but were struggling to carve out many real goalscoring opportunities against a China side who had only lost one of their last 16 matches.

They had another half chance on the half-hour mark when Yoann Gourcuff unleashed a low left-footed shot but Zeng made a comfortable diving save.

Moments later Gallas headed Gourcuff's corner narrowly wide.

Les Bleus never looked threatening as time and time again the final ball was lacking. In the 57th minute Ribery directed a corner towards the far post where Gourcuff completely missed the ball.

It had taken China nearly 10 minutes of the second half to get the ball into the French half but it was to be them who took the lead in the 68th minute.

Half-time substitute Anthony Reveillere, who had been the only player not to feature in the warm-up matches, misplaced a pass which allowed China to storm downfield and win a free-kick.

Deng floated the ball into the back of the net from 30 yards out to break the deadlock and stun the French.

Les Bleus tried desperately to find the equaliser and three minutes later Sidney Govou saw his shot blocked by Zeng but only as far as Thierry Henry, who also fired straight at the China goalkeeper.

France were throwing everything at their opponents but China were defending stoically and the rare times they were beaten Zeng was on hand.

However, it was a case of Les Bleus missing too many balls and that was typified in the fifth minute of stoppage time when Gourcuff's free-kick arrived at the far post. Henry flicked it on for Gallas, who only had to tap it in - but the Arsenal defender completely failed to get a touch.

Domenech will have been left with plenty to ponder following this defeat to a country ranked 84th in the world - just behind World Cup hosts South Africa, who France face in the finals.

More in this section

Price info

Subscribe to unlock unlimited digital access.
Cancel anytime.

Terms and conditions apply


Latest news from the world of sport, along with the best in opinion from our outstanding team of sports writers

Sign up

Select your favourite newsletters and get the best of Irish Examiner delivered to your inbox