OSLO (Reuters) - An experimental France team lost 2-1 in Norway on Wednesday in their first outing since a shambolic World Cup campaign, forward Erik Huseklepp scoring twice for the home side in a lively friendly.
Les Bleus opened the scoring with a superb goal from substitute Hatem Ben Arfa shortly after the break but Huseklepp levelled by deflecting a free kick into the net before hitting the winner after a counter-attack on 70 minutes.
New coach Laurent Blanc, who took none of France’s World Cup squad members to Norway, fielded six uncapped players in his starting line-up for his first game in charge.
The nervy visitors failed to score their first win over Norway in 22 years but at least France showed more initiative than they did in their dismal displays in South Africa in June.
“I‘m satisfied because I saw players who wanted to play, who played well and respected my instructions,” Blanc told reporters.
“The result is not what we wanted and a defeat is never encouraging but I saw many positive things.”
France, captained for the first time by defender Philippe Mexes, started well and first threatened with a header by defender Adil Rami that flew just over the bar on nine minutes.
Norway showed they, too, could be dangerous three minutes later with a shot from the edge of the box by forward Mohammed Abdellaoue which France keeper Stephane Ruffier did well to save.
The visitors, with Arsenal’s Samir Nasri in the playmaking role, came close to scoring several times after that, notably with a diving header by striker Loic Remy.
France’s young team looked good when moving the ball forward but lacked composure at the back and suffered at times, particularly during a spell of Norwegian pressure towards the end of the first half.
The second half was more balanced, Ben Arfa showing his class with a splendid left-foot drive from 25 metres for a great goal on 47 minutes before Huseklepp twice found breaches in a porous French defence.
“After half an hour I thought we would lose this match but afer that we controlled it better and created great chances,” said Norway coach Egil Olsen. “I‘m really happy about our performance.”
France should welcome back some of the World Cup rebels and will need to step up a few gears when they face Belarus and Bosnia in Euro 2012 qualifiers early next month.