Ergys Kace’s stunning free kick condemned France to another friendly defeat as they lost 1-0 to Albania on Saturday.
The Euro 2016 hosts have been far from convincing in friendly encounters in the last few months, which have included a 3-1 defeat to Brazil and a 4-3 reverse against Belgium last Sunday.
But their performance on Saturday will have been particularly worrying for coach Didier Deschamps, with France second best to a side of inferior international pedigree.
Albania dictated matters for the majority of the game in Elbasan, showing signs of continued improvement as they bid to qualify for Euro 2016.
A well-struck free kick from midfielder Kace late in the first half proved to be enough for the eastern European side to claim a surprise victory.
Gianni De Biasi’s men are third in Group I and can look ahead to September’s qualifiers against Denmark and Portugal with confidence.
Deschamps, though, will need to consider how to get his side back on track, with friendlies against Portugal and Serbia next on the horizon for the two-time European champions.
Olivier Giroud went close to giving France the lead in the eighth minute as he volleyed wide at the near-post but Albania, who lost Andi Lila to injury, grew into the game and spurned a pair of gilt-edged chances.
Odise Roshi’s right-wing cross was spilled by France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and Ermir Lenjani could only send the ball over the crossbar from point-blank range on the rebound.
Lenjani was then thwarted by a fine one-on-one save from Lloris on the half-hour mark after the midfielder was played through on goal by a throughball from Ledian Memushaj.
But the goal Albania deserved arrived in fine fashion a minute before half-time.
The hosts were awarded a free kick on the edge of the area following Giroud’s foul on Kace, who stepped up and produced a superb curling effort into the top-left corner, leaving Lloris with no chance.
Paul Pogba and Nabil Fekir came on for the visitors at half-time but France continued to struggle in the second half and would have fallen further behind had Valdet Rama not fired wastefully wide after bursting into the box.
Albania substitute Armando Sadiku then had an effort deflected narrowly wide before Mathieu Valbuena tested goalkeeper Etrit Berisha with a free-kick at the other end, but De Biasi’s side stood firm to claim the triumph their fine performance merited.
- Soccer News Like
- Be the first of your friends!