Football

Published: Wednesday May 28, 2014 MYT 5:47:02 AM
Updated: Wednesday May 28, 2014 MYT 5:47:56 AM

Valbuena the architect as France demolish Norway 4-0

France's Mathieu Valbuena controls the ball during their international friendly soccer match against Norway at the Stade de France Stadium in Saint-Denis, near Paris, May 27, 2014.  REUTERS/Charles Platiau

France's Mathieu Valbuena controls the ball during their international friendly soccer match against Norway at the Stade de France Stadium in Saint-Denis, near Paris, May 27, 2014. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - France winger Mathieu Valbuena was in a class of his own as he set up three goals in a 4-0 victory at home to Norway to help his side start their World Cup warm-up games in style.

Valbuena excelled in a one-sided encounter, providing perfect crosses for Paul Pogba and Olivier Giroud, who netted twice, to get on the scoresheet along with substitute Loic Remy.

France, who face Honduras, Ecuador and Switzerland in Group E at next month's World Cup, will play Paraguay in Nice on June 1 and then Jamaica in Lille on June 8 before flying to Brazil.

Midfielder Pogba headed home in the 15th minute, striker Giroud volleyed the second in the 51st and Remy got the third after 67 minutes from Mathieu Debuchy's pass as Les Bleus played their last game at the Stade de France before the World Cup.

Giroud rubbed salt in Norway's wounds by heading the fourth two minutes later after being set up again by Valbuena.

"We were in competition mode against a team who have qualities," France coach Didier Deschamps told TF1. "Scoring four goals is never easy at international level, it's good for our confidence."

"At the end of our first week of work, it's very good."

PLAYERS MISSING

Deschamps rested goalkeeper Hugo Lloris and winger Franck Ribery, who has been struggling with back pains.

Real Madrid centre back Raphael Varane and striker Karim Benzema were not available because they will only join the squad on Thursday after winning the Champions League last weekend.

Seven probable starters at the World Cup were in the lineup, with second-choice keeper Stephane Ruffier, centre back Laurent Koscielny, winger Antoine Griezmann and Giroud also included.

Les Bleus had two early chances with headers by Griezmann and Giroud saved by Orjan Nyland, but there was nothing he could do to keep out Pogba's low header from Valbuena's fine cross.

France ran out of steam near the break and Ruffier had to deny Tom Hogli at the near post three minutes before halftime.

Deschamps then brought on Lucas Digne and Moussa Sissoko for Patrice Evra and Pogba respectively.

Giroud put France 2-0 ahead six minutes into the second period when he made the most of Valbuena's pass to whip a fine volley under the bar.

Second-half substitute Remy added another goal with a clinical finish after collecting Debuchy's defence-splitting pass before Giroud grabbed his second with a header into the far corner of the net from another fine cross by Valbuena.

(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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