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Football: France fire more blanks in Belgium draw

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

France's woes in front of goal continued on Wednesday as Didier Deschamps' team drew 0-0 with neighbours Belgium in a friendly in Brussels.

Les Bleus can draw satisfaction from ending a run of three consecutive defeats - a sequence that began with their 1-0 loss to Spain in a World Cup qualifier in March - especially as Belgium are once again a force to be reckoned with at international level, themselves now unbeaten in 15 home games stretching back almost three years.

However, France visibly lacked confidence in the final third and have now gone more than six hours without putting the ball in the net, a run which will be of serious concern to Deschamps ahead of the return to qualifying action next month.

Deschamps' starting line-up was a mixture of youth and experience, with Eric Abidal making his return after more than 18 months on the sidelines of international football in the heart of the defence, while Bayern Munich's Franck Ribery won his 74th cap on the left wing.

Meanwhile, Sevilla's Geoffrey Kondogbia, a member of France's under-20 World Cup-winning team last month, was handed his full international debut in central midfield alongside Saint-Etienne's Joshua Guilavogui, winning just his third cap.

Their hosts named a strong line-up, spearheaded by the Chelsea trio of Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard, formerly of Lille.

But for all the attacking potential on show, neither team was at their sharpest in front of goal.

De Bruyne came closest to scoring for Marc Wimots's team in the first half, firing just wide of the far post after a Laurent Koscielny clearance had fallen invitingly into his path.

Before that, Ribery shot over from just inside the area after exchanging passes with Karim Benzema, and the same player then sent in a cross which was almost turned into his own net by Toby Alderweireld.

After the break, France captain Hugo Lloris saved well from Lukaku at one end while Benzema was denied by a fine Thibaut Courtois stop after Marouane Fellaini had failed to cut out a Ribery cross at the other.

The game then drifted to its conclusion amid a raft of substitutions, including Benzema's withdrawal for Arsenal's Olivier Giroud.

The Real Madrid striker has now not scored for his country in 19 and a quarter hours on the field, and France need to find a solution to a clear problem before travelling to Georgia and Belarus in a qualifying double-header next month.

Belgium, meanwhile, travel to Scotland in September aiming to move a step closer to returning to the World Cup finals for the first time since 2002.

They currently top qualifying Group A by three points from Croatia.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130814/football-france-fire-more-blanks-belgium-draw