By Mark Bennett at the AufSchalke Arena
Juventus FC forward David Trezeguet collected two goals as reigning European champions France swept aside 2002 FIFA World Cup runners-up Germany 3-0 in a friendly encounter in Gelsenkirchen tonight.
Both teams had already qualified for the UEFA EURO 2004™ finals in Portugal next summer so were spared the agony of the play-offs. The win was a record-breaking 13th in a row for Les Bleus, beating their previous mark of 12 victories from February to December 1984.
The visitors made a commanding start and should have taken the lead with only seven minutes on the clock. Real Madrid CF midfield player Zinedine Zidane picked out Trezeguet in the area and the Juventus striker headed the ball back to Thierry Henry, who was waiting on the penalty spot. Instead of settling himself for the shot, the Arsenal FC striker caught the ball on the volley and drove well wide.
Only four minutes later the home team came close to going ahead at the other end. VfB Stuttgart’s Kevin Kuranyi somehow managed to sneak past right-back Lilian Thuram inside the penalty area, but his effort cannoned off the crossbar and left the forward cursing his bad luck.
France then made Germany pay for their profligacy when Robert Pires cleverly drew Frank Baumann out of defence before laying the ball off to Bixente Lizarazu, who had overlapped the Arsenal midfield player on the left. The FC Bayern München defender had enough space to curl his cross towards Henry, who made no mistake with a well-taken close-range header.
The goal spurred Germany into action and Rudi Völler’s side found it within themselves to create a succession of chances. However, goalkeeper Grégory Coupet produced a series of sharp stops to deny Jens Jeremies, Michael Ballack, Christian Wörns and Fredi Bobic before the break.
France effectively finished the match as a contest ten minutes after the interval, Henry dispossessing Wörns in centre field and bursting clear into the penalty area. When he could have gone alone, he unselfishly fed the unmarked Trezeguet and the Juve forward doubled the lead.
The second goal proved the killer blow and Germany were fortunate not to concede another when Wörns was again outpaced by Henry. This time, however, Jens Nowotny arrived in time to cut out a dangerous cross into the box. France continued to probe the home defence in the closing stages despite having made the match safe and nine minutes from time Trezeguet converted a perfect through-ball from Zidane to put a gloss finish on a comfortable victory.
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