PARIS (Reuters) – Euro 2016 runners-up France, with a largely revamped side, were held to 0-0 draw by African champions Ivory Coast in a a dull friendly at Lens’s Stade Bollaert on Tuesday.
After Friday’s 2-1 win over Sweden in a World Cup qualifier, France coach Didier Deschamps made seven changes, handing Paris St Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot and Stade Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil their first international caps.
With forward Antoine Griezmann ruled out due to a foot injury, Les Bleus struggled to get into their stride as the game failed to ignite on a cold evening in northern France.
The crowd booed at the end of the match, obviously disappointed with France’s performance.
“We struggled, that’s not what I want to remember from 2016,” said Deschamps. “We could have won that game but we could have lost it. We made too many errors, especially in the second half.”
Ivory Coast had the best chance in the 11th minute when Adama Traore’s 20-metre half-volley crashed against Costil’s post and Salomon Kalou, who followed up the shot, poked the ball into the net but his effort was disallowed for offside.
France’s best opportunity in the first half came six minutes before the break when N’Golo Kante’s fierce 20-metre strike was blocked by goalkeeper Sylvain Gbohouo.
Moussa Sissoko also had a good chance after the interval but his header from Lucas Digne’s cross went just wide.
Eight days before PSG’s potential Champions League Group A decider at Arsenal, Rabiot limped off with a muscle injury in the 77th minute before Costil made a superb save to deny Nicolas Pepe from point-blank range in the last minute.
“Adrien (Rabiot) picked up a thigh injury,” said Deschamps, without elaborating.
France, who lead World Cup qualifying Group A by three points, next visit Luxembourg on March 25 when the battle to reach the 2018 finals in Russia resumes.
(Writing by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)