Ivory Coast held France to a 0-0 draw in Lens on Tuesday, as Paul Pogba proved unable to steer Les Bleus to victory in the absence of Antoine Griezmann.
The Atletico Madrid playmaker missed the match at Stade Bollaert-Delelis due to a foot injury that could leave him in doubt for the derby against Real Madrid on Saturday.
Without the influence of one of the stars of Euro 2016, Didier Deschamps’ team laboured to a disjointed stalemate against the Africa Cup of Nations holders.
Pogba, the world’s most expensive player, started but was withdrawn at half-time, in a change likely to please Jose Mourinho ahead of Manchester United’s meeting with Arsenal in the Premier League this weekend.
The former Juventus midfielder did at least produce one of the highlights of an otherwise forgettable game, using the outside of a boot emblazoned with the personalised slogan #pogboom to play a sumptuous pass to the flanks prior to his withdrawal.
A slew of substitutions typical of international friendlies badly disrupted the rhythm of what had been an entertaining contest, Moussa Sissoko missing the hosts’ best chance of the second half by contriving to head wide unmarked from close range.
The next opportunity for Deschamps’ team to impress will not come until an eminently winnable World Cup qualifier against Luxembourg in March, while Ivory Coast host Zimbabwe in a friendly, before launching the defence of their continental crown against Togo in Gabon on January 16.
France started the stronger of the two sides in Lens, where Adrien Rabiot’s header from a Dimitri Payet corner bounced narrowly wide three minutes in.
Kevin Gameiro then fizzed a shot just past the near post after Lamine Kone’s poor headed attempt to clear a hopeful long ball.
Salomon Kalou had the ball in the back of the net in the 11th minute for Ivory Coast, but was flagged offside on the follow up from Adama Traore’s vicious half-volley, which struck the upright and bounced back into the path of the Hertha Berlin forward.
A minute before the half-hour mark, France survived another scare, when Jonathan Kodjia cut inside from the left and dispatched a fierce, dipping shot that was parried by Benoit Costil, with Kalou unable to reach the rebound.
Max Gradel spurned a good opportunity in the 36th minute, dragging a miscued effort wide after being found in space by Serge Aurier on the right side of the penalty area.
Tottenham player Sissoko, a key member of Les Bleus’ run to the final of the Euro 2016, should have done better with a free header from Lucas Digne’s cross on the hour mark.
And Gradel’s long-range attempt narrowly failed to embarrass Costil with the keeper stranded after charging out of his goal to head the ball clear.
Nicolas Pepe had the last notable chance of the game in injury time, the substitute getting in behind the France defence only for Costil to snuff out the danger with a brave save from point-blank range. Soccerway
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