Spain outplay France in Paris

PARIS - European champions Spain highlighted their status as World Cup favourites by confidently outplaying a dismal France side 2-0 in a friendly international at Stade de France on Wednesday.

Two first-half goals by David Villa and Sergio Ramos gave the visitors their first away win over France since a 3-1 victory in 1968 and a further morale boost with just over three months left before the start of the finals in South Africa.

"We made the match easy for ourselves with our attitude," Spain coach Vicente del Bosque told a news conference. "We maintained a good position on the pitch and controlled the match easily even if we didn't have that many chances.

"There were some mistakes from both teams in the second half but I think we had the match under control at all times," he added.

The Spaniards, who have now won 22 of the 23 matches they have played since their triumphant Euro 2008 campaign, were too fast and clever in midfield for a clueless French side showing signs of nerves at the back.

The 2006 World Cup runners-up, in their first outing since a 1-1 draw featuring Thierry Henry's infamous handball gave them a controversial World Cup playoff win over Ireland on the same pitch last November, were booed off by the French fans.


"To lose at home is never pleasant but to beat Spain, you need everybody at his best, which was not the case tonight," France coach Raymond Domenech, who has been under fire since his side's awful Euro 2008 campaign, told reporters.

"We needed to be exceptional and were not," he added. "We have three months left."

After a tense opening, the first clear chance was for the visitors when Sergio Busquets headed the ball just wide from a Xabi Alonso free kick on 19 minutes.

Two minutes later, France captain Henry lost the ball in midfield, allowing David Silva to launch Villa with a fine through ball. The Valencia marksman raced into the box to beat France keeper Hugo Lloris with a cool finish.

Right back Ramos doubled the advantage just before the break with an angled shot from inside the box that was deflected by France defender Julien Escude and gave Lloris no chance.

The home side showed slightly more initiative after the break and even came close to reducing the arrears when a header by Florent Malouda from a cross by fellow substitute Djibril Cisse bounced off the post 10 minutes from time.

The crowd packing Stade de France on a crisp, windy evening in Paris started booing their team even before the end of the first half and kept calling for Domenech to resign.

Henry, no longer in the starting lineup at Barcelona, was jeered almost every time he touched the ball and even more when he was replaced by Sidney Govou with 25 minutes left.

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