Euro 2008 – Romania frustrate insipid France
France were held to a frustrating 0-0 draw by Romania in their opening Euro 2008 Group C match at the Pro Letzigrund Stadium in Zurich.
Les Bleus dominated possession throughout, but failed to seriously test Romania goalkeeper Bogdan Lobont, with Nicolas Anelka and Karim Benzema spurning the best of the few opportunities they managed to create.
The result throws into question France’s standing as one of the pre-tournament favourites, and they now face an uphill struggle to progress from this tournament’s ‘Group of Death’, which also contains Italy and the Netherlands.
Thierry Henry started on the bench for France after failing to shake off a long-standing back problem, and with 20-year-old Lyon striker Benzema leading the line alongside Anelka the 2006 World Cup runners-up made a sluggish start.
In fact, it took until the 33rd minute for them to register a meaningful effort on goal, with Anelka nodding Franck Ribery‘s left-wing corner over the crossbar from eight yards.
Anelka found himself in a promising position shortly afterwards but fired a shot into the side netting from a tight angle on the right, while Lobont did not have a save to make until forced to pounce on the ball after Christian Chivu had inadvertently prodded it goalwards off Benzema’s toes.
A turgid first half ended with France raggedly defending a succession of corners from the Romania left, but Raymond Domenech‘s men managed to carve out a few more opportunities as the game opened up slightly in the early stages of the second half.
First Florent Malouda flashed a shot over the crossbar after jinking past Cosmin Contra on the edge of the box, before Benzema sidefooted straight at Lobont from Ribery’s right-wing pass.
Benzema then dragged a shot across goal and wide after working some space on the edge of the Romanian penalty area, but on the whole France were restricted to hopeful crosses which Romania’s defence – brilliantly marshalled by Dorin Goian and Gabriel Tamas – easily repelled.
Domenech introduced St Etienne striker Bafetimbi Gomis and Marseille playmaker Samir Nasri in an attempt to find a way through Romania’s stubborn defensive unit, but a late onslaught failed to materialise and the final whistle brought forth jeers from the angry French fans.