France are still celebrating the morning after they drew 1-1 with Spain in an intense game in Madrid – a result which leaves FIFA World Cup qualifying Group I delicately poised.
"France, without doubt, delivered their best display for a long time," newspaper L'Équipe said, their headline – printed above a celebration picture – roughly translating as: "Great effort!" Olivier Giroud's header at the end of stoppage time at the Estadio Vicente Calderón, following superb work by Franck Ribéry on the left, made a whole country merry.
"They knew it was impossible but they did it," added Le Monde. "France have not won in Spain (unbeaten at home in competition since 2003 and having not dropped a point in qualifying for 24 games) but this looks like an achievement against a great Spain team."
It was not just the scoreline but the manner they achieved it. Rarely have Spain had so little of the ball for a full half in recent times. The plan for France initially was to emulate Switzerland, the last team to defeat La Roja in competitive action more than two years ago, by scoring early and keeping it tight.
As it turned out, Spain struck first but France had much of the possession after the break and especially in the last third of the match. Les Bleus on Tuesday were clearly a different side from Friday, when they went down 1-0 at home to Japan in a friendly.
"We forced Spain to drop back in the second half," said coach Didier Deschamps, who changed tack by introducing Mathieu Valbuena, Moussa Sissoko and Giroud. The first made an important impact in midfield; the other two were involved in the first international goal conceded by Iker Casillas for 817 minutes.
"The manager's team talk at the break accounted for a lot," said centre-back Mamadou Sakho. "He helped us recover and what we did after that reflected our team spirit. No one would have gambled on us but we wanted to go for it."
His Paris Saint-Germain FC team-mate Blaise Matuidi described the game as "the best of my career". He added: "We gave everything to get something. We knew it would be difficult against the best team in the world. We were brave and united, and in the second half we had the calm heads to try to score. This draw is like a win but we will not stop there. Our aim is to qualify for the World Cup."
The result keeps France level with Spain at the Group I summit, each having seven points from three outings.
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