PARIS France had gained a great deal of confidence and satisfaction from a recent run of good results but Wednesday's 2-1 friendly defeat to Germany in Paris suggest Les Bleus are still some way below the upper echelons of world soccer.
When Didier Deschamps's team followed up a 1-1 away draw against Spain in a World Cup qualifier last October with an encouraging 2-1 friendly win over Italy in Parma a month later, many observers were claiming France were back among the elite.
However, France were brought back down to earth against a solid Germany side, often lacking punch up front, looking slightly disorganised in midfield and vulnerable on the left side of the defence.
"We lack efficiency," Deschamps told reporters.
France enjoyed a handful of chances but the form of Karim Benzema came into question when the Real Madrid striker shot straight at Rene Adler after being set up nicely by Mathieu Valbuena and he missed another opportunity in stoppage time.
"He just needs the goal that will free him for good," Deschamps added of the striker who has now failed to score in 10 international appearances. "He needs to get back the confidence a striker needs, as well as a bit of luck."
Germany, though, did not need to rely on luck, outplaying France in the midfield thanks largely to Mesut Ozil's creative spark.
The Real Madrid attacking midfielder set up club team mate Sami Khedira for the winner and proved a constant threat, exploiting the space between the France midfield and defence.
"He is a player who has great technical qualities, it is hard to steal the ball from him, especially because of his positioning on the pitch," Deschamps admitted.
Holding midfielder Yohan Cabaye, who has a history of struggling against top class opposition, was unable to prevent Germany from pouring forward while Blaise Matuidi did a better job, although only in the first half.
Newcastle midfielder Moussa Sissoko also struggled, with an international friendly against the team ranked second in the world proving far trickier than life in the Premier League has proved so far since his January move from Toulouse.
"It was really hard to block them in the midfield," Sissoko said.
"They (Germany) have more experience," Deschamps said.
It was not the lack of experience, though, that had Patrice Evra being outfoxed on both goals as the left back looked far from his Manchester United best.
He was barely helped by Mamadou Sakho, who failed to protect the left side of the central defence.
Next month, France take on Georgia and Spain in World Cup qualifiers at the Stade de France with Deschamps keen to accentuate the positives ahead of the fixtures.
"I saw some interesting things," he said. "It was not all bad."
Franck Ribery once again showed that he had put his 2010 troubles behind him, offering a remarkable display with dazzling runs at the German midfield and defence, while Valbuena scored the opening goal and looked very lively throughout.
Right back Bacary Sagna, in his first appearance since September 2011, was solid at the back and threatening down his wing.
Deschamps's main goal will now be to channel those energies so that France can be more efficient against Spain as they look to leapfrog the world and European champions in Group I.
"There is a lot of frustration but we prefer to lose this game (against Germany) and then win our match against Spain," Valbuena told reporters.
(Editing by John O'Brien)
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