Two goals from Pierre-Alain Frau helped France to a comfortable 3-1 victory over Greece in the UEFA European Under-21 Championship today.
Sylvain Armand opened the scoring in the first half, before Frau struck twice to kill off a brave Greek resistance in the Olympique de la Pontaise stadium, Lausanne. Christos Patsatzoglou did pull a goal back in the final ten minutes but it was too little, too late for his side to make any impact in the match.
Having beaten the Czech Republic 2-0 in their opening fixture, France came into the match in high spirits. Coach Raymond Domenech made six changes from the side that beat the Czech's, with goalkeeper Mickaël Landreau, defenders Jean-Alain Boumsong and Julien Escude and midfielders Olivier Sorlin and Benoit Pedretti the only survivors from the opening match.
Frau and Chapuis shine
Sydney Govou and Pegguy Luyindula, both carrying injuries, were replaced in attack by Frau and Cyril Chapuis, while Philippe Mexès, the French league's outfield player of the season, came in at the expense of Jérémie Bréchet to form an all-AJ Auxerre central defence with Jean-Alain Boumsong.
Greece lost their opening match against Belgium and knew that only a win would do if they were to stand a chance of reaching the last four. They made a bright start to the match but were unable to create any clear-cut chances. Instead it was France who had the best early opportunity, as Frau volleyed Sorlin's cross over the Greek crossbar from 15 metres.
Armand on target
Patsatzoglou then almost opened the scoring in the 24th minute but saw his goalbound 25-metre free-kick palmed to safety by a flying Landreau. France eventually made their dominance tell 13 minutes later, when Armand received the ball on the left flank and his cross looped over Stefanos Kotsolis and into the far corner of the net. If the effort was deliberate then it was breathtaking but judging by the look on the winger's face it appeared to be a somewhat fortunate strike.
Things soon got worse for Greece as Frau doubled his side's advantage three minutes later. Armand's deep cross from the left was volleyed back across goal by Sorlin and Frau stooped low to head past a helpless Kotsolis.
Greece made two substitutions at the start of the second period and posed more of an attacking threat. However, they were caught out once again as Frau scored his second to make it 3-0 to France in the 61st minute. Chapuis controlled and then flicked a clever ball over the Greek rearguard and Frau took a touch before comfortably beating Kotsolis from 15 metres.
Frau then went close with a lob and Ioannis Amanatidis was denied by the impressive Escude, before Patsatzoglou scored a consolation for Greece with six minutes remaining. Georgios Kazantzis was felled just outside the area by Mathieu Delpierre and Patsatzoglou steeped up to curl a magnificent 23-metre free-kick around the wall and into the far corner.
Lesson in finishing
The victory all but confirms France's place in the semi-finals and once again highlights the toothless nature of the Greek forward line. Despite their attractive build-up play, they lacked the killer instinct of their opponents and were given a lesson in finishing.