Spain, France Lead Final Euro Dozen

Belarus capitalized on Pogba’s indecision and a handling mistake from Lloris to open the scoring from a corner in the 32nd. Filipenko outjumped Pogba for a bouncing header that Lloris could only palm into his own net. France needed 34 minutes to test Belarus goalkeeper Sergei Veremko for the first time of the match. Arsenal striker Olivier Giroud headed a free kick from Valbuena but Veremko made the save. “Because of the importance of the match, I think there was a bit of tension in our game,” Deschamps said. “The desire was so strong that it was a bit messy.” Named best player in Europe by UEFA, Ribery was doubtful for the match because of a buttock injury. Ribery had very little impact in the first half but he helped France get back in the game with a run after the break. Veremko brought the Bayern Munich winger down in the 46th and Ribery wrongfooted the Belarus goalkeeper with a low strike from the penalty spot. That goal ended a five-match scoring drought for France, the worst one in its history. France then had a short spell of domination with a long-range attempt from Valbuena in the 52nd, palmed away by Veremko, and an off-target effort from Ribery in the 54th. Just when France seemed to be in control, Belarus took advantage of a counterattack led by Aleksandr Hleb to recapture the lead. From the right flank, Kalachev curled in a shot that Lloris diverted into his own net in the 57th. However, France quickly replied with three goals in a 10-minute span. Ribery sprinted at the far post to tap in a pass from Valbuena.

(AFP) France said on Wednesday it would remain poised to launch military action against Syria over its use of chemical weapons, despite ongoing attempts to find a diplomatic solution to the crisis. The warning came after a meeting between President Francois Hollande, his foreign and defence ministers and senior military figures. “France will remain, in permanent contact with its partners, mobilised to punish the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime and to deter them from using them again,” a statement from Hollande’s office read. Hollande said France was nevertheless determined to give negotiations aimed at placing Syria’s chemical weapons under international control a chance to succeed. “The president of the republic underlined France’s determination to explore every avenue at the UN Security Council to allow, as quickly as possible, effective and verifiable control of the chemical weapons present in Syria,” the statement said. France is pushing for a binding Security Council resolution requiring Syria to swiftly implement its pledge to give up its chemical weapons or face punitive action. Russia has offered to oversee the process and help destroy the arsenal, but is strongly opposed to presenting Syria, its closest ally in the Middle East, with an ultimatum. Moscow has vetoed every Security Council resolution on Syria since the start of the country’s civil war more than two years ago. Readiness to destroy Meanwhile, European Commission President JoseManuel Barroso on Wednesday said “a strong response” was needed to the use of chemical weapons and urged Damascus “without delay” to show readiness to destroy them. Delivering his annual state of the unionspeech before the European Parliament, Barroso said “the use of chemical weapons is a horrendous act that deserves a clear condemnation and a strong answer”. “The international community, with the United Nations at its centre, carries a collective responsibility to sanction these acts and to put an end to this conflict,” he told the 751-member house. “The proposal to put Syria’s chemical weapons beyond use is potentially a positive development,” he added. “The Syrian regime must now demonstrate that it will implement this without any delay.” He recalled too that the 28-member bloc had been the world’s leading aid donor since the two-and-a-half year conflict began, delivering almost 1.5-billion in aid, of which 850 million were directly from the European Union budget. AFP .

France targets World Cup playoff spot

Croatia (1-1), 6. Greece (0-2) Each team plays a further three games against teams who qualified from a different first round group. The top four sides in Group E and E will advance to the quarterfinals. The eventual top six finishers (or seven if Spain is in the top six) will get automatic berths for the 2014 World Cup. But for Latvia, Belgium and, most unexpectedly, Greece, their 0-2 standing leaves them with a tough road ahead over the next six days. Thoughts, however, are slowly turning to title runs for the pre-tournament favorites. With Lithuania inconsistent, and the Greeks neutered by an ankle injury to Vassilis Spanoulis , all eyes are on Spain and France to convert the greatest depth of talent here into a march to the final. Yet, neither has truly hit its stride. Defensively, the French have lacked energy at times, while relying on former Raptors and Mavericks center Alexis Ajinca for the tough physical presence they need to protect Tony Parker and Nando de Colo . Johan Petro , currently a free agent, has been anonymous. Ronny Turiaf and Joakim Noah have been badly missed. Of greatest concern, there have been times when it looks like Les Bleus believe they can turn it on whenever it is required.

France poised to launch action against Syria

France winger Franck Ribery is doubtful for the match because of injury and his absence would be a blow to France. The pacy winger was recently named best player in Europe after leading Bayern Munich to success in the Champions League, the Bundesliga and the German Cup last season. “I can’t say that I’m 100 percent fit but I hope to play,” Ribery told French daily L’Equipe. Also, Karim Benzema’s starting spot is under threat. The Real Madrid striker has not scored in his last 15 games for France. Benzema is the most prolific player in the current France squad with 15 goals from 60 matches. France coach Didier Deschamps has backed him despite a nagging lack of efficiency at the international level. Benzema last scored for France in a friendly, a 4-0 win over Estonia in June 2012. Deschamps paired Benzema with Arsenal forward Olivier Giroud in the 0-0 draw in Tbilisi against Georgia. Benzema was replaced in the 62nd minute by Marseille striker Pierre-Andre Gignac. Giroud could be given the chance on Tuesday to play up front as a lone striker the way he does at Arsenal. France has not found the net in its last five games, the worst drought in its history. “We can’t win a match if we don’t manage to open the scoring,” Deschamps said.