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France work hard for win in Luxembourg

Luxembourg 0-2 France
Philippe Mexès and Yoann Gourcuff struck to make it six wins in a row for France and move them four points clear in Group D.

Yoann Gourcuff takes the acclaim after scoring France's second
Yoann Gourcuff takes the acclaim after scoring France's second ©Getty Images

France opened up a four-point lead in UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying Group D as goals from Philippe Mexès and Yoann Gourcuff earned victory in Luxembourg.

The result was France's fourth straight 2-0 win in the group since their opening 1-0 loss at home to Belarus, and their sixth consecutive victory including the friendly defeats of England and Brazil. Playing just 15km from the French border, the visitors dominated but were made to work for their triumph.

Laurent Blanc fielded an attacking selection spearheaded by Karim Benzema with Franck Ribéry, Yoann Gourcuff, Florent Malouda and captain Samir Nasri offering support. But though they had the bulk of possession, the packed Luxembourg midfield was far from just staying on the back foot.

A set piece was needed for Les Bleus to break the deadlock. Luxembourg captain Eric Hoffmann fouled Malouda near the box, and Nasri's pinpoint free-kick was met by a Mexès header which Jonathan Joubert could only watch fly into his bottom corner. Joubert was in the mix again after 40 minute to parry a powerful Bacary Sagna attempt and he then denied Malouda on the cusp of half-time.

Adil Rami was next to test Joubert 20 minutes into the second period, the goalkeeper blocking a header following Malouda's corner. But with 18 minutes remaining the home custodian was beaten again, Gourcuff volleying in a miscued Hoffmann clearance to add to his goal in the 2-0 home defeat of the same opponents in October.

Three minutes later Benzema came close to a third before Luxembourg rallied to threaten Hugo Lloris's goal in the closing stages. France's lead could be reduced to one point if Belarus win at third-placed Albania on Saturday and, while Luxembourg return to action against another winless side, Romania, on Tuesday, Blanc's men must wait until 3 June for their vital trip to Belarus.