FIFA World Cup Qualifying: Georgia 0 France 0
By Football News
France's hopes of automatic FIFA World Cup qualification were hampered by a 0-0 draw in Georgia on Friday.
Didier Deschamps' men endured a frustrating evening in Tbilisi, leaving them with a tough ask to top Group I.
Worryingly for Deschamps, it was the fifth consecutive game in which his side have failed to score, while they have now won just once in their last seven matches.
Olivier Giroud shook off a niggling injury in the warm-up to take his place up front for the visitors, the Arsenal striker seeking to build on his impressive start to the season that has seen him score four goals in five games.
Temuri Ketsbaia included Aleksandre Kobakhidze, who netted Georgia's consolation goal in the 3-1 defeat to France in Paris in March.
The 26-year-old midfielder was one of seven players who retained their starting place despite the disappointing 1-0 loss to Kazakhstan in last month's friendly.
The hosts started positively, with Jano Ananidze surging past Josuha Guilavogui before Moussa Sissoko halted his progress.
France responded well and almost took the lead with 12 minutes gone.
Karim Benzema opened up the space with a smart run before teeing up Franck Ribery, who darted into the box, cut inside and flashed a shot narrowly wide.
Jaba Kankava connected well with an ambitious volley after 17 minutes that swerved wide as the Georgians continued to show their attacking intent.
Hugo Lloris had to be alert to keep out a Tornike Okriashvili effort from the edge of the box eight minutes later.
Opposite number Giorgi Loria should have been called into action at the other end in the latter stages of the half, but Marseille winger Mathieu Valbuena rifled his shot over the bar from inside the box.
After a strong start to the second half, France were nearly hit on the counter-attack but the home side were denied the opening goal in dramatic fashion.
Lloris fumbled Okriashvili's initial shot and the midfielder, following up for the rebound, saw his second attempt crash off the post before the visitors scrambled it to safety.
That close call spurred the French on and Giroud was inches away from getting on the end of Ribery's cross, only for Aleksandr Amisulashvili to make a crucial intervention.
Giroud was guilty of spurning a glorious opportunity in the 70th minute, receiving the ball fortuitously after Patrice Evra's wayward shot fell to him only to flash his shot over the bar.
There was still time for Loria to deny Valbuena and Ribery with two excellent late stops, while Laurent Koscielny headed wide from close range as the French drew a blank once again.
Giroud took a tumble in the box deep into stoppage time but his desperate appeals for a penalty were waved away.