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Alarm bells sounding for Everton

Everton
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By ESPN Staff

It will be a battle to the end, says Domenech

France coach Raymond Domenech believes Group C will go down to the wire after seeing his side draw 0-0 against Romania in their Euro 2008 opener.

In what on paper looked their easiest match of the pool stages, Les Bleus did not have the guile to break down a stubborn Romanian side, who grabbed a point they clearly came for.

With games against Holland then old foes Italy still to come, Domenech maintains his long-held belief that there will be precious little to choose between the four teams in what has been dubbed the 'Group of Death'.

'I have been saying since the draw was made, this is a complicated group,' he said. 'Their (Romania's) team is solid, strong and well prepared and it was a difficult match.

'We have two more matches to play and this will be a tough group right until the end. There are no weak teams. All four of us are going to do everything we can, but we have known that for six months.

'This match was just confirmation of that.'

Clear-cut opportunities were at a premium in a turgid encounter at Zurich's Letzigrund, with neither goalkeeper seriously tested throughout.

France created a number of half-chances, but they were spurned by Nicolas Anelka, Karim Benzema and Florent Malouda as Romania's obdurate defence held up well.

'I wish we had have won 10-0 and created many chances but this isn't what happened,' Domenech added. 'They can be very tough opponents. They played Holland twice (in qualifying) and did not concede.

'Of course I will be disappointed if we don't go on and qualify but we are taking it step by step.'

Key France pair Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry both missed the game because of injury.

Captain and midfielder Vieira is still bidding to overcome a thigh injury he sustained 10 days ago, while striker Henry revealed for the first time that he is suffering from the same problem.

Domenech hopes to have both his talismanic players back for Friday's match against Holland.

'Patrick is getting better,' the coach said. 'He is preparing with the rest of the group.

'Thierry is doing better. He has a small problem - he was not quite ready for today and I didn't plan to field him. He should be back on track as of tomorrow (Tuesday).'

Romania were expected to be the wooden-spoonists in the group, but a couple more disciplined performances like this and they could yet cause an upset by claiming a top-two finish.

Their intentions were limited - France goalkeeper Gregory Coupet did not have a single shot to save - but they stifled the French and achieved what they set out to do.

Romania coach Victor Piturca felt his team deserved to claim a point.

'I said before the game that it would be a difficult game for both us and the French and I think it was a fair result,' he said. 'There were not many opportunities to score and physically it was very hard for us. As we have seen in previous games, there is a certain fatigue around.

'But both the French and us are still in a good position to qualify.'

Like Domenech, Piturca partially blamed an indifferent climate in Switzerland for the low-quality fare served up.

'It was pretty cold in St Gallen (where Romania's training camp is) and then all of a sudden, the temperature has risen in Zurich,' he said. 'That probably affected the way our players played so we have been at a disadvantage because of the recent climate.'

Piturca also had a sly dig at the French, who have been one of the world's leading teams for the past decade.

'Maybe France are no longer at the same level as they have been in the past - we could see that today,' he said. 'They still have very good players who are experienced, but a couple of them are a little old now.'

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