Gallas saves France from defeat in Tunisia

By Patrick Vignal

RADES, Tunisia (Reuters) - France needed a second-half goal by William Gallas to salvage a 1-1 draw in Tunisia in their penultimate World Cup warm-up Sunday.

Tunisia fought bravely, opening the scoring on five minutes through forward Issam Jemaa, but France, still needing time to adapt to the new, 4-3-3 system they had introduced in a 2-1 win over Costa Rica Wednesday, improved gradually.

As against Costa-Rica, forward Thierry Henry started on the bench, leaving his armband to left back Patrice Evra, and came on for the second half.

The only member in the France squad to have won the 1998 World Cup, although he did not play in the final, the 32-year-old Henry has had a difficult season with Barcelona and is now in the twilight of his career.

Still unfamiliar with their new system, with just one holding midfielder instead of the two in their usual, more defensive 4-2-3-1 formation, France looked shaky at the back at times.

But, gaining confidence as the match went on and winning the midfield battle, they threatened with a low drive from the edge of the box by Franck Ribery that went just wide on 23 minutes and then with a Florent Malouda volley just before halftime.

France, who made an early exit from Euro 2008 and have kept frustrating their fans with uninspired performances since, still have work to do if they are to make an impact at the World Cup.

Playing before a partisan, 55,000 crowd on a mild, damp evening just outside Tunis, they did try to move the ball forward and shelve the cautious, dull tactics that have been their trademark over the past few years.

France will now fly to the French Indian Ocean island of Reunion to play China there Friday in their final warm-up for the June 11-July 11 finals in South Africa, where they will face the hosts, Mexico and Uruguay in Group A.

(Editing by Dave Thompson)