French defence shaky in draw with Tunisia
France needed a second-half game-tying goal from Arsenal defender William Gallas to earn a 1-1 draw against Tunisia in a World Cup warmup match on Sunday.
Slack French defending allowed Tunisia striker Issam Jomaa space to tap home the opening goal in the fifth minute, but Gallas scored in the 62nd minute when he met Yoann Gourcuff's free kick to head past goalkeeper Hamdi Kasraoui.
France coach Raymond Domenech stuck with his new-look 4-3-3 formation, making only one change from the team which beat Costa Rica 2-1 last Wednesday. First-choice goalkeeper Hugo Lloris replaced Steve Mandanda, who had been at fault for Costa Rica's goal.
Domenech kept Nicolas Anelka as the centre-forward, with Thierry Henry again on the bench, while Gallas started for the second successive game alongside Eric Abidal after recovering from a calf injury.
"I had a chat with the coach and the coach told me I wasn't starting," Henry said. "But as I've said many times, the most important thing is the team. I try and bring something when I come on, I'm at the team's disposition."
Domenech appears to have finally ditched the stale 4-2-3-1 formation that showed little flair during a tough World Cup qualifying campaign, where France squeezed through after beating Ireland in a tense playoff with a hotly disputed goal by Gallas.
However, France again lacked sharpness in front of goal against a well-organized Tunisia team.
"We need to take our chances a bit more," Domenech said.
France plays China in its final friendly match on Friday.
The new formation means France is also more vulnerable than usual at the back. Domenech made seven changes in the second half as he tried out different combinations in defence, midfield and attack.
"This was the type of match where everyone had to play, where we needed to have a turnover," Domenech said. "There will be less changes [against China]. Those who start will play a bit longer."
The match in Rades had barely started when Tunisia defender Yassine Mikari sprinted to catch up with a cat that had strayed onto the field, and he swiftly grabbed it with both hands and carried off the pitch to loud cheers before the game resumed.
Tunisia took the lead after Gallas was slow to react when Mehdi Nafti collected the ball and passed to Fahid Ben Khalfallah sprinting down the left, and his cross was poked home by Jomaa for his 16th international goal.
"It was a bit hard at the start and we couldn't get our rhythm," Domenech said. "That's two games where we've conceded early on, so we will have to look at that. That's what happens when you have a more attacking formation, there's more danger."
Gallas, who missed the final few weeks of Arsenal's season after getting injured against Barcelona in a Champions League quarter-final on March 31, still looks short of full fitness but remains a threat on set-pieces.
Tunisia should have been 2-0 ahead in the 10th minute.
France's defence was caught out again when Ben Khalfallah sprung the offside trap to go clean through. He had the easy task of squaring the ball to Jomaa, but wildly misjudged his pass.
France then started pressuring as Ribery jinked his way past three defenders and shot wide in the 22nd minute, Gallas headed over from Malouda's corner soon after, and Govou headed wide in the 33rd minute from another Malouda cross.
France relied too much on Ribery down the left, but almost tied the game on the stroke of halftime when Anelka's lofted pass found Malouda bursting into the penalty area, but his shot was blocked.
Manchester United defender Patrice Evra led the side again after being named captain for the first time against Costa Rica, and he could wear the French armband in South Africa if Henry — who played sporadically for Barcelona this season -- remains on the bench.
Henry replaced Ribery at halftime and took his place down the left side, while Bordeaux's Marc Planus made his international debut at centre half, replacing Abidal.
Kasraoui came on for Aymen Mathlouthi, and did well to keep out Malouda's low shot in the 74th minute.
Ben Khalfallah again cut through France's midfield late on, but substitute Yacine Chikhaoui failed to control his pass.
France plays in the same group as South Africa, Mexico and Uruguay, starting its World Cup on June 11 against Uruguay.