3rd defeat in 4 games for France after 1-0 loss in Albania
ELBASAN, Albania (AP) — France lost for the third time in four matches when it fell in Albania 1-0 in a listless performance on Saturday.
With one year to go until France hosts the European Championship, coach Didier Deschamps’ team is struggling, having lost 4-3 at home to Belgium last weekend.
Albania deservedly took the lead in the 44th minute of the friendly, when midfielder Ergys Kace curled a superb free kick from outside the penalty area into the top left corner.
“We were not aggressive enough against a well-organized team fighting for every ball,” Deschamps said. “We’re coming up short in too many areas to hope to play at a high level.”
France, a quarterfinalist at last year’s World Cup, also lost 3-1 at home to Brazil in March.
“We were lacking in commitment,” a despondent Deschamps added.
Albania’s Ermir Lenjani missed a chance from close range in the 26th, and moments later forced goalkeeper Hugo Lloris into a smart save low to his right.
France winger Mathieu Valbuena almost equalized in the 76th with a near-identical free kick which was well saved by goalkeeper Etrit Berisha.
Forward Nabil Fekir and midfielder Paul Pogba both came off the bench and blazed free kicks over late on. Pogba had a header saved in the 88th.
France is already qualified as host of next year’s European Championship, so the results involving France in qualifying do not count.
Albania, which is level with Denmark in second place in Group I, will have gained confidence from its matches against Les Bleus, having drawn 1-1 in France last November.
“France has a lot of qualities but they were lacking in determination,” Albania coach Gianni De Biasi said. “The difference came down to motivation, but I’m convinced France will have a good team at the Euro.”