KAUNAS, Lithuania - France kept their World Cup qualifying hopes alive when a Franck Ribery goal earned a 1-0 victory in Lithuania on Saturday. Ribery netted in the 67th minute with a powerful 20-metre drive after being set up by Yoann Gourcuff. France, who have a game in hand on leaders Serbia, remain third in Group Seven with seven points from four matches. Les Bleus are two points behind Lithuania, who meet the French again in Paris on Wednesday. Serbia, 3-2 winners in Romania, have 12 points from five games. "This win is very important for us. We all had a good match, we fought on a bad pitch," Ribery told the French TV channel TF1. "We had so many chances and we wanted this goal very badly. Now we have to do it again on Wednesday at the Stade de France." Coach Raymond Domenech said: "We dominated and we won but there will be another game in a few days. We should not gloat yet. MAIN RIVALS "Serbia won against Romania so there is still a lot of work. It seems Serbia are going to be our main rivals." France made a flying start with Gourcuff and Peguy Luyindula the main threats to the Lithuania defence. Striker Luyindula, a surprise starter in place of Karim Benzema, was twice denied by keeper Zydrunas Karcemarskas on a bumpy surface. Gourcuff also had a fine volley blocked by Karcemarskas as France failed to capitalise on their domination. Lithuania relied on set pieces to upset the visitors but France keeper Steve Mandanda kept them at bay. Luyindula went close again in the 52nd minute when he raced into the area following a defence-splitting pass from midfielder Jeremy Toulalan. Lithuania coach Jose Couceiro said the best side won. "It was a very difficult game, France are a very good team," said the Portuguese. "Now we must learn from our mistakes before heading to Paris."
28 March 2009
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