France held to a goalless draw by Ivory Coast

LENS: A much-changed France team was held to a goalless draw by African champions the Ivory Coast in a friendly in the northern city of Lens on Tuesday. The Ivorians came closest to breaking the deadlock at a packed Stade Bollaert-Delelis in the 11th minute when a fierce strike by the Basel left-back Adama Traore smashed against the post and Salomon Kalou converted the rebound, only for the offside flag to deny the Hertha Berlin striker.France struggled to create chances and were denied what would have been a record 14th victory in a calendar year having equalled their previous best performance, set in 2003, with a 2-1 win over Sweden in World Cup qualifying last Friday. It was a flat finish to a good year for Didier Deschamps  side which featured just the one defeat   the 1-0 extra-time loss to Portugal in the final of Euro 2016 and jeers greeted the final whistle. Deschamps admitted his side s performance was “laborious” but added: “We have done very good things this year, with the Euro. “Our only defeat hurts, it prevented us from winning a trophy. The team has made a lot of progress and we need to build on that.” The Elephants were the more dangerous side and their French coach Michel Dussuyer will be pleased with the way his men performed as they prepare to defend their Africa Cup of Nations crown in Gabon in January. Deschamps made seven changes to his side from the win against Sweden with Paul Pogba and Dimitri Payet, who scored in the game at the Stade de France, among the few who kept their places. The coach handed first caps to Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Adrien Rabiot and Rennes goalkeeper Benoit Costil, who was given his chance with Hugo Lloris rested Steve Mandanda a late withdrawal due to injury. The elegant Rabiot, 21, hobbled off late on with an injury that will be a cause of concern to his club. He was replaced by Monaco s Thomas Lemar, who also made his full international debut, as did the Lille right-back Sebastien Corchia. Costil had to be alert to save from Elephants substitute Nicolas Pepe at the death and ensure a clean sheet on his senior bow at the age of 29.

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