Football: Chile battle back to hold France

MONTPELLIER, France, Aug 10, 2011 (AFP) - France and Chile drew 1-1 in an entertaining friendly encounter here on Wednesday, with Loic Remy's first-half goal for the hosts cancelled out by substitute Nicolas Cordova late on.

AFP - Chilean players celebrate after their goal during the friendly football match France vs. Chile

Cordova produced a measured first-time finish from the edge of the box after being set up by fellow sub Alexis Sanchez to hand the South American nation, quarter-finalists at last month's Copa America, a thoroughly deserved draw.

France had capitalised on a lively start to the game by taking the lead 20 minutes in when Marseille striker Remy continued an excellent run of form stretching back to the tail end of last season by heading in his ninth goal in nine starts for club and country from a Karim Benzema cross.

It was a beautifully-worked goal, with Samir Nasri's measured pass finding Benzema on the left, and the Real Madrid striker taking his time before picking out Remy with a pin-point cross.

Laurent Blanc's side were looking to continue a ten-match unbeaten run stretching back to the shock reverse at home to Belarus in a Euro 2012 qualifier almost 12 months ago, and were good value for their lead at that point.

The attacking quintet of Remy, Benzema, Florent Malouda, Nasri and Marvin Martin all looked in the mood, and the latter had fired narrowly over with a fine strike from just outside the box not long before Remy struck.

However, Chile slowly found their stride, and Jorge Valdivia, of Palmeiras in Brazil, brilliantly controlled a long ball from Waldo Ponce before sending a sweet strike just over Hugo Lloris' crossbar.

Claudio Borghi's side remained on the front foot until the interval, but without forcing a save out of Lloris.

Fears that tiring legs and a raft of substitutions might detract from the spectacle on offer after the restart proved misplaced, with France coach Blanc, on the ground where he made his name as a player two decades ago, choosing not to make any immediate changes.

Chile sent on Sanchez, and despite having trained only twice since the Copa America, the newly-signed Barcelona star proved a handful for makeshift central defensive duo Eric Abidal and Younes Kaboul.

France threatened with Benzema producing a good save from Chilean goalkeeper Claudio Bravo low at his near post, and Remy hitting the bar with an outrageous back-flick.

Remy and Kevin Gameiro, on for Benzema, then both had efforts rightly disallowed for offside, but Chile's threat never died, and Sanchez cut in from the right before setting up Brescia striker Cordova to level inside the final 20 minutes.

"It was a good game of football," said Blanc afterwards. "There were fantastic players on show on both sides.

"It would have been great to win but Chile had chances of their own. I am satisfied with the players even if we do ask a lot of them.

"For a match right at the start of the season there was a lot of quality on show. We thought that Chile would struggle a bit more physically but they are so good at keeping the ball."

France can now turn their attentions towards a vital Euro 2012 qualifying double-header in Albania and Romania next month, when two wins could seal their place in next year's finals, but Blanc refused to be drawn on whether the same team would start in Tirana on September 2.

"The context will be different," Blanc added in reference to the clash with Albania.

"It will be more of a physical contest. We will be away from home. Some of those who played tonight will definitely start but there are so many more matches to be played between now and September 2.

"We are bound to have one or two unforeseen injury problems, but we are certainly on the right road."

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