France only just scraped through their 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying pool and looked far from convincing in their first match since reaching Germany as they trailed 2-0 at half-time at the Stade Dillon. However, Anelka – playing his first game for Les Bleus since the goalless draw against Russia in April 2002 – sparked a fine recovery when halving the deficit in the 49th minute. Djibril Cissé and Thierry Henry then wrapped up the victory with goals in the last ten minutes.
Domenech was due to announce whether Fabien Barthez or Grégory Coupet would be his No1 goalkeeper on Tuesday, but played it safe by selecting Barthez tonight and the Olympique Lyonnais custodian for Saturday’s showpiece match against the World Cup hosts. Barthez could do little to keep out the opening goal in the 14th minute, however, as Álvaro Saborío took advantage of slack defending to latch on to a lofted ball and pick his spot.
José Francisco Porras was in inspired form at the other end, frustrating Anelka with two fine stops before Costa Rica struck again, Barthez and Lilian Thuram failing to deal with a simple inswinging corner which Rolando Fonseca gratefully headed in.
Domenech could be proud at the way his players reacted, although there was an air of fortune about France's first as a mis-kicked Alou Diarra effort found Henry in space in the area. As the Costa Rican defence appealed as one for offside, the Arsenal FC captain rolled the ball sideways for Anelka to tap in. Anelka went off to warm applause in the 72nd minute, with Cissé replacing his fellow forward with good effect, notably when sweeping in the equaliser from outside the area in the 80th minute.
France sensed their chance, and duly took it with three minutes remaining as a low corner from another substitute, Jérôme Rothen, clipped the back of Henry's foot and ended up in the back of Porras's net. "Our heart was not enough to win the match, we also needed a tactical reshuffle," said Domenech. "I saw the French team I know in the second half."
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