France beaten by Belarus

PARIS - France, under new coach Laurent Blanc, failed to shrug off their old ways as they slumped to an embarrassing 1-0 home defeat against Belarus in their opening Euro 2012 Group D qualifier on Friday.

The French players were cheered on to the pitch by flag-waving fans but were booed off it an hour and a half later after Belarus substitute Sergei Kislyak netted the winner with four minutes left having converted his side's only clear chance.

GEAR: Euro 2012 qualifiers - £5 off all shirt printing with our online retailer Kitbag

"I want to thank the fans who came here to support us," France captain Florent Malouda told the angry crowd shortly after the final whistle was blown on Les Bleus's hopes of rediscovering the pride they lost at the World Cup in June.

"It is a pity to start this campaign with a defeat."

Hopes were high that France would have closed the door on their sorry World Cup chapter, when they were knocked out in the first round after a players' revolt, and start afresh under Blanc.

The players were greeted by a round of applause by the Stade de France faithfuls during the warm-up as Blanc welcomed back nine players who were at the World Cup in South Africa.

France took control of the game early on, with Marseille striker Loic Remy's header going just wide from a corner kick after 17 minutes.

Though they were shaky at the back, Belarus proved sharp on the break as Alexander Hleb twice caused havoc in the French defence.

Florent Malouda produced France's first attempt on target when Yury Zhevnov parried away the Chelsea winger's powerful 20-metre drive on the stroke of halftime.

Malouda thought he had scored in the 63rd minute but was ruled offside.

France piled on the pressure and Mathieu Valbuena, who came in for the injured Remy in the first half, had a superb dipping volley from the edge of the box tipped over his bar by Zhevnov.

Louis Saha came in for Jeremy Menez in the 70th minute in an attempt by Blanc to toughen up his front line. The Everton striker, however, was replaced injured 10 minutes later by newcomer Kevin Gameiro.

It was not enough, however, as Kislyak, who came on in the 75th minute, collected a back-pass from Vyacheslav Hleb in the box before firing past Hugo Lloris.

France will next travel to Bosnia on Tuesday.

Interact: Twitter * Facebook * Forums