France got their Euro 2012 qualifying campaign back on track and quickly turned the page on their shock defeat by Belarus with a superb 2-0 win over Bosnia-Hercegovina here on Tuesday.
Karim Benzema, returning to the side after injury, opened the scoring in the 72nd minute when he controlled Gael Clichy’s left-wing cross, span away from a defender and fired left-footed past Kenan Hasagic.
The visitors doubled their lead six minutes later with a delightfully executed goal; Florent Malouda tapping into an empty net after a one-touch move involving Benzema, Abou Diaby and Mathieu Valbuena.
“Our use of the ball was very good and, contrary to what happened on Friday (against Belarus), we got forward quickly,” said France coach Laurent Blanc, who had tasted defeat in his first two matches in charge.
“The fact we played deeper allowed us to create space and we have players up front, like Karim, who like space. We produced a marvellous result tonight.”
The three points were rich reward for a performance full of brio and endeavour from France, who had been booed off by their own fans after losing 1-0 to Belarus in Paris.
By contrast, Bosnia had begun their qualifying campaign with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Luxembourg, but they appeared surprised by the assured nature of France’s play and threatened only fitfully.
Miralem Pjanic went closest, but his long-range free-kick was pushed away by his Lyon team-mate Hugo Lloris in the France goal.
France’s quick-fire goals provoked the wrath of the home fans and captain Emir Spahic, who had been left for dead by Benzema’s pirouette prior to the opening goal, had to appeal for calm after flares were thrown onto the pitch.
Les Bleus could have won even more handsomely, but the inventive Valbuena saw a low drive parried by Hasagic and Benzema also drew a sharp save from the home goalkeeper with a close-range volley.
“I’m not surprised. France are a great team and I can’t see them not finishing in the top two (in the group),” said Bosnia coach Safet Susic.
“It’s a big disappointment. We respected France a bit too much. We were too timid.”
The trip to Sarajevo was supposed to be France’s most taxing Group D assignment but the smiles on the players’ faces at the final whistle suggested it could be the game that finally put the World Cup fiasco to bed.
Blanc had beefed up the French starting XI by aligning Diaby, Yann M’Vila and skipper for the night Alou Diarra in a muscular midfield, with Benzema operating as a lone forward in a 4-3-3 formation.
The solid midfield base laid the foundations for an aggressive pressing game that allowed France to stamp their authority on the game from the start.
Malouda dovetailed intelligently with Benzema, who struck the outside of the post from the edge of the box in the 12th minute, while Diaby helped establish France’s dominance with a superb display full of elegant touches.
Benzema twice tested Hasagic and curled a free-kick just over the bar in the first half, while M’Vila sent a dipping volley onto the roof of the net and Diaby over-ran the ball when through on goal after a neat one-two with Malouda.
Diaby saw a header flash wide after the interval, before Benzema showed his class with a strike that visibly appeared to lift a burden from his team-mates’ shoulders.
Blanc punched the air with delight as Malouda tapped home the second and his side will now look forward to the visit of Romania on October 9 with renewed confidence.
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