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Belarus vs. France: Score, Reaction from World Cup 2018 Qualifier

Joe Pantorno@@JoePantornoFeatured ColumnistSeptember 6, 2016

France's Antoine Griezmann, left, challenges for the ball with Belarus' Ivan Maevski during their World Cup Group A qualifying match between France and Belarus at the Borisov-Arena stadium in Borisov, Belarus, Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2016. (AP Photo/Sergei Grits)
Sergei Grits/Associated Press

France's 2018 World Cup qualifying got off to an underwhelming start on Tuesday in a 0-0 draw against a hard-working Belarus side in UEFA Group A action from the Borisov Arena in Barysaw, Belarus.

Entering the match, France was ranked No. 7 in the world and third behind Belgium and Germany in Europe by FIFA. Their hosts, on the other hand, were ranked 70th in the world. 

But in a raucous atmosphere at a stadium that held just 13,000 fans, the memory of one of Belarus' most famous wins was fresh in the mind of those watching. Six years ago, it defeated France during qualification for Euro 2012, winning at Stade de France with a 1-0 result.

However, Tuesday's match would not provide three points for either side. 

After a shaky start, France began to control play as expected, but other than an Antoine Griezmann shot that was caught and held by Andrey Gorbunov, France lacked an attacking flair throughout the first half.

Belarus almost gained an unlikely opener in the 22nd minute after a tantalizing cross from Timofei Kalachev narrowly missed the head of a diving Nikolai Signevich just feet in front of France's goal, but that was as close as the hosts would get.

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Ten minutes into the second half, France's attack began clicking on all cylinders. Striker Olivier Giroud's left-footed shot missed just to the right of goal in the 53rd minute while Griezmann's shot from outside of the box was parried by Gorbunov over the crossbar five minutes later. 

In the 62nd minute, Raphael Varane followed in Giroud's footsteps when his shot from outside of the box just missed the target. The 67th minute saw Griezemann rejected by Gorbunov once again after he received a low cross from Moussa Sissoko close to the Belarusian 'keeper. 

French frustration grew even more in the 73rd minute when Paul Pogba found himself on the end of a rebound given up by Gorbunov off of a free-kick just inches from the box. But the chance was deflected wide and behind for a corner.

Despite France holding 69 percent of possession while out-shooting Belarus 24-3, the Euro 2016 runners-up had to settle for a draw.

Now with one point in hand, it will focus its sights on making its way toward the top of the Group A table as it meets Bulgaria on Oct. 7. It is imperative that France does not let more opportunities against weaker sides slip by without gaining three points. With high-powered opponents like the Netherlands and Sweden in Group A, there isn't much room for wasted chances.

Belarus, on the other hand, who will value this point far more than France, are set to meet another European superpower in its next match of qualifying as it will meet the Netherlands on Oct. 7.

   

Stats courtesy of ESPNFC.com. 

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