x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

A sad day as French stumble yet again

Franck Ribery summed up the mood in the French camp: sad.

French playmaker Franck Ribery.
French playmaker Franck Ribery.

SAINT DENIS, PARIS // Franck Ribery summed up the mood in the French camp: sad. A stuttering qualifying campaign continued when they threw away the lead to draw 1-1 with Romania at the Stade de France on Saturday. With three games left, they trail group leaders Serbia by four points and look destined for the perilous play-offs. "We're disappointed because we wanted the three points before we go to Serbia [the match in Belgrade on Wednesday], you can say that it's like a defeat," Ribery said. "It's sad for everyone, for the coach, for the fans. We played well, and then we let this goal in."

Defender Julien Escude scored a 55th-minute own-goal to cancel out a 48th-minute Thierry Henry effort for France. "Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it doesn't. I don't know many teams who have as many chances as us in a match," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "It will happen for us. I'm not blaming anyone." Domenech refused to accept the result damages France's chances of qualifying directly, even though the initiative is clearly with Serbia. "The objective is to qualify, no matter how we get there. I'm not in the habit of giving up," he said. "There's still everything to play for, nothing is finished yet. It will go down to the last game."

The French were booed at the final whistle, while Romanian coach Razvan Lucescu hailed his young team, even though they have little chance of qualifying. "It's an important result seeing as we're just beginning with this team. These kind of games help us to grow and give us confidence," he said. * AP