Israel draws match with France

France was held to a goalless draw by minnows Israel.

updated: February 25, 2007 10:08 IST
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Stade de France:

It was a new look France that took to the Stade de France pitch on Saturday. No Bixente Lizarazu, Marcel Desailly, Lilian Thuram and - most importantly of all - Zinedine Zidane. All retired in the wake of 'Les Bleus' poor showing at Euro 2004. The personnel have changed - Raymond Domenech is now at the helm - but the mediocrity lives on. New skipper Patrick Vieira came close to putting France in front after just nine minutes. He would have gone even closer if he'd managed to get his head - not his shoulder - in contact with the ball. And a minute later, Chelsea defender William Gallas was presented with a great opportunity of opening the scoring. A bright start. Sadly though, that didn't set the tone for the rest of the evening. Granted, France had the best of the chances - Claude Makelele thwarted by an inspired Nir Davidovitch in the Israeli goal after 28 minutes. But much of what passed was scrappy, insipid, uninspiring. No doubt spirits fortified by their first half performance, Israel gave their much-vaunted opponents a real scare after 65 minutes - substitute Ludovic Guily coming to the rescue and clearing Valeed Badeer's goalbound header off the line. A strangely subdued Thierry Henry - rarely the force internationally that he is on the English domestic stage with Arsenal - had a late chance to steal three points. Deservedly, Davidovitch was up to the challenge. This group 4 qualifier finished goalless. No doubt the visitors will be highly pleased with their performance - possibly one of the greatest in their footballing history. France though, need to improve quickly - rivals of the calibre of Switzerland and the Irish Republic won't have been too worried by this display. (AP)