Griezmann salvages draw against Albania for disappointing France

Griezmann, who came on at halftime, scored in the 73rd minute to cancel out Mergim Mavraj’s 41st minute opener as Albania proved a tough nut to crack for Didier Deschamps’ team.


France had been looking in fine form since their World Cup quarter-final exit, beating Portugal and Spain, but with midfielder Paul Pogba far from his best and Karim Benzema once again lacking accuracy up front, they struggled throughout against Albania.

France have qualified automatically for the Euro 2016 finals as hosts while Albania are in contention to qualify for their first ever major finals after a good start in qualifying Group I.

Their Oct. 14 qualifier against Serbia in Belgrade had to be abandoned when fighting erupted after a remote-controlled drone trailing a flag of “Greater Albania” flew over the stadium, triggering a pitch invasion, but the football was the only subject that mattered in Rennes on Friday.

Albania started well with France keeper Hugo Lloris being forced to tip Lorick Cana’s header onto his crossbar early on.

Mavraj also came close on 16 minutes when his volley from a free kick flew just over the bar as France dominated possession but failed to threaten the visitors’ defence.

Yohan Cabaye sent a volley over the bar and an unmarked Benzema inexplicably fluffed a downward header.

Albania went ahead when Mavraj headed into the top corner after beating Pogba in the air four minutes from the interval.

France were had little to advertise for themselves until Griezmann, who had come in for Cabaye shortly before the hour, found the back of the net with a low shot from just inside the box.

France, who will only play friendlies until the Euro finals on home soil, take on Sweden in Marseille on Tuesday.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Mike Collett)