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Late winner takes France past Iceland in Euro warm-up

Associated Press
May 28, 2012 at 09:28am IST

Valenciennes, France: Franck Ribery scored his first international goal for more than three years and Adil Rami grabbed a late winner as France rallied to beat Iceland 3-2 at home on Sunday in a European Championship warm-up match.

Coach Laurent Blanc picked an experimental and attacking line-up, featuring several fringe players. The move soon backfired as Iceland went 2-0 up at half-time thanks to goals from Birkir Bjarnason and Ajax striker Kolbeinn Sigthorsson.

"You have to analyze both halves. We were a bit timid in the first half and made a lot of mistakes," Blanc said. "It was hard to find a balance between attack and defence."

Late winner takes France past Iceland in warm-up

Franck Ribery scored his first international goal for more than three years and Adil Rami grabbed a late winner as France rallied to beat Iceland 3-2.

Rightback Mathieu Debuchy pulled one back early in the second half but France struggled until Ribery and striker Olivier Giroud came off the bench.

Giroud set up Ribery's 85th-minute goal with an exquisite chip over the defence, and then showed great composure a minute later to head a cross down to Rami, who blasted the ball home.

"We reacted well in the second half, and by changing the balance of the team a bit, we created a lot of chances," said Blanc, who will choose his final 23-man squad for Euro 2012 this week.

"We learned some interesting things tonight, now it's up to us to make the right choices," he added.

Sigthorsson created Iceland's first goal with a superb piece of skill as he flicked the ball past Debuchy and crossed for Bjarnason, who finished with a neat half-volley past goalkeeper Steve Mandanda.

France's defence was exposed again for the second goal, this time on the other flank, when Rurik Gislason beat leftback Patrice Evra for pace and whipped over a cross for Sigthorsson to finish with aplomb.

France attacked strongly from the restart and equalized in the 52nd minute.

Hatem Ben Arfa cut inside from the left and found striker Karim Benzema, whose perfectly weighted pass allowed Debuchy time and space to fire the ball inside the near post.

Iceland should have made it 3-1 in the 62nd when Bjarnason had only Mandanda to beat after running onto a cross from the left, but shot straight at the goalkeeper.

Winger Florent Malouda came off the bench late in the second half and almost created a goal for Mathieu Valbuena with 10 minutes remaining, but Valbuena's shot from the edge of the penalty area flew just wide.

Giroud, the French league's topscorer with 21 league goals for French champions Montpellier this season, showed his altruism when he cushioned a pass from Ribery with one touch and then chipped the ball back to him over Iceland's flat-footed centerbacks. Ribery controlled it perfectly and lifted the ball into the roof of the net for his first goal since April 2009.

"Of course it feels good to score," said Ribery, who now has eight international goals. "I'm very happy for myself and for the team. We wanted to win the game, and even when we were 2-0 down we believed we could."

Two minutes later, Rami grabbed his first international goal when Giroud showed great awareness to cushion a header down to him, and the centrehalf smashed the ball home from near the penalty spot.

Although France responded well in the second half, the poor defending will give Blanc some cause for concern ahead of Euro 2012.

France have two friendlies against Serbia and Estonia before opening their Euro 2012 campaign against England on June 11.

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