France missed a chance to take control of Euro 2012 qualifying Group D after they were held to a 1-1 draw by Belarus on Friday.Laurent Blanc’s France came into the match in Minsk top of the group, four points ahead of second-placed Belarus.
Victory at Dynamo Stadium would have blown the lead out to eight points and – with four matches of the qualification remaining – put France within touching distance of a place in next year’s finals.
But they made hard work of the match from start to finish and proved unable to avenge a 1-0 home defeat in the first meeting between the teams in September last year.
It has been an inspiring end to the season for Eric Abidal, who overcame a cancer scare to be given the honour of lifting the Champions League trophy for Barcelona after their 3-1 win over Manchester United at Wembley in May.
But the full-back was brought back to reality on Friday when, under pressure from BATE Borisov’s Maksim Bordachev, he conceded an own-goal to put France behind 20 minutes into the match.
Chelsea winger Florent Malouda spared his former Lyon teammate’s blushes with the equaliser just two minutes later.
Malouda was played in by fellow ex-Lyon man Karim Benzema, but it would prove to be the Real Madrid striker’s only worthwhile contribution of the night as France struggled to threaten the home side.
While hardly a disaster, the lacklustre draw keeps France four points clear of Belarus and five ahead of third-placed Romania, with work yet to do if they are to secure passage to the Ukraine and Poland.
“It was a disappointing match, especially in the first half. We lacked a bit of freshness – I don’t think we deserved to win tonight,” Blanc said.
“They’ve taken four points off us in two matches and that’s a lot – yet they are not a better team than us. We came for three points and we didn’t get them.”