Fabio Capello suffered his first defeat as England manager, as a penalty from Franck Ribery handed France a 1-0 friendly win at the Stade de France in David Beckham's 100th appearance.
Ribery struck the only goal of the game, as he calmly slotted home from the penalty spot on 32 minutes after David James had brought down Nicolas Anelka in the 18-yard area to condemn Capello to defeat in his second match in the England hot-seat.
England - who had Beckham winning his 100th cap in their first XI - enjoyed the better of the opening possession, but Wayne Rooney was isolated in a lone striking role and Gregory Coupet in the France goal was rarely threatened.
Capello introduced Michael Owen and Peter Crouch in place of Rooney and Steven Gerrard among four changes at the interval, but the move had little effect.
Centurion Beckham also made way for David Bentley midway through the second 45 minutes, as Capello attempted to find a way back into the game.
However, France continued to enjoy the better of proceedings and Anelka went close to extending the host's lead, as the striker fired over at the near post.
England began brightly enough and might have taken the lead after 14 minutes when Ashley Cole flashed in a dangerous cross, which Coupet could only palm away and Beckham, racing in, failed by a smidgen to nudge home what would have been a fairytale goal.
Gerrard then shot high and wide and followed it up with a header just over from a Wes Brown cross.
But while England were not without a modicum of threat, the quality belonged to the men in blue.
Ribery, in particular, was a controlling influence in midfield and the slickness of the French triangles he engineered was pleasing on the eye.
Things began to go seriously awry for Capello's men after 30 minutes when Francois Clerc's through ball ripped open England's defence, leaving Anelka in acres of space and bearing down on James.
The Chelsea striker showed all of his pace and he reached the ball first, toe-ending it away from James before being sent cart-wheeling spectacularly across the turf by the unfortunate goalkeeper.
James will have experienced flashbacks to Euro 2004 where he was involved in a very similar collision with French forward Thierry Henry.
German referee Florian Meyer took the easiest decision of the night, as he pointed to the spot and Ribery dispatched the penalty with some comfort.
It was Ribery who was again at the centre of the action when Beckham received a yellow card.
Ribery picked up the ball, sprinted away from Beckham and the only way the Los Angeles Galaxy man could stay with him was to hitch a lift on his shirt tail.
Just to prove that some of the old magic still remains, however, he then sprayed a 50-yard pass to Gerrard, which sent ripples of applause around the stadium.
Halftime saw Capello ring the changes, with John Terry replaced by Joleon Lescott, Stewart Downing coming on for Joe Cole, Crouch for Gerrard, and Owen for Rooney.
It was Owen's first action under Capello, but he had little opportunity to convince the Italian of his sharpness.
Indeed, if Capello was looking for a more vibrant England, a team who passed accurately and played with a mixture of patience and high tempo, then little of that was on show in Paris.
England's travelling army were left with just their memory of Beckham - and the night he joined Billy Wright, Sir Bobby Charlton, Bobby Moore and 125-cap record-holder Peter Shilton as a member of the 100 club.
On Tuesday, May 13, David Beckham and the Los Angeles Galaxy will play the Vancouver Whitecaps FC in an international friendly at Commonwealth Stadium in Edmonton, Alberta, in a game presented by the Edmonton Sun. For more information, please click here to view our Galaxy page or call 604.669.WAVE (9283).
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