12 October 2014 20:14
Armenia face a daunting task if they are to end their winless streak against a France side showing continued signs of improvement.
Bernard Challandes’ Armenia welcome the Euro 2016 hosts to Yerevan having failed to win in each of their last five outings, their last triumph coming back in May as the eastern Europeans overcame the UAE 4-3.
The hosts appeared set to claim all three points in Saturday’s Euro 2016 qualifier with Serbia, but suffered heartbreak as Dick Advocaat’s visitors equalised in the 90th minute, leaving Armenia to settle for a draw that does little for their hopes of qualifying for a maiden major tournament.
Despite the stalemate Challandes was quick to praise the spirit of his players.
“My players were like lions,” Challandes said. “At the beginning of the match, I would have settled for a draw, taking into account some absent players in my team, but now I am disappointed. I am proud of my team.”
Challandes will hope for a similar display of character on Tuesday, and it is likely to be much-needed versus Didier Deschamps’ France team, who visit the Vazgen Sargsyan Republican Stadium in strong form.
France have maintained their momentum from an impressive run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Brazil, claiming wins over Spain and Portugal, although those results were separated by a somewhat disappointing 1-1 draw with Serbia.
Striker Karim Benzema and Paul Pogba were on target in Saturday’s 2-1 victory against Portugal, while a centre-back pairing of Raphael Varane and Elaquim Mangala helped keep Cristiano Ronaldo at bay.
Yet for all the positives from that display, Deschamps believes there are still areas, including ball retention, where France require improvement ahead of a meeting with an Armenia outfit that has a recent history of surprising more established nations, beating Denmark 4-0 and drawing 2-2 Italy in qualification for the World Cup.
“These are small things that can cost us dearly,” Deschamps said. “I do not want to change our intentions to go forward but you can always improve.
“It is important to maintain the momentum. After it is up to us to show intent and aggressiveness in winning the matches, while knowing that they do not earn points.”
The last time these two sides met France emerged as 3-2 winners back in 1999, however, with Deschamps’ men having just kept arguably the world’s best player off the scoresheet, a similarly high-scoring affair appears improbable.