A bright future is taking shape for France under new coach Jacques Santini. That was the message from Paris after the European champions shone on a weekend of EURO 2004™ qualifiers by destroying Slovenia 5-0.
'A new chapter'
"Since our match in Tunisia in August we have opened a new chapter in our history," said Santini. "It takes time but things are improving. I have begun to have a clear picture of what I want to build." After Santini's debut draw in Tunisia, France scraped past Cyprus 2-1 in their first Group 1 match before humbling Slovenia.
Santini acknowledged his team "lacked concentration" for a spell but added this was a consequence of introducing younger players, among whom William Gallas had an impressive debut. "William confirmed what I was thinking about him," said Santini. "He never lets anything go, he is strong physically and he has great pace. But he is not the only one. There are many others who could play in this squad."
Trapattoni under pressure
If it was all smiles in Paris, the same did not apply in Naples after Italy's 1-1 draw with Group 9 rivals Yugoslavia. "Enough, Trapattoni! Bring back Zoff," was the headline in the Corriere dello Sport newspaper, although Italy coach Giovanni Trapattoni felt the wet conditions had not helped his side. "The ground conditions penalised us," he said. "Our team is built for quick manoeuvres and speed."
England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson was unhappy with his side's first-half performance after they came from behind to beat Slovakia 2-1 in Group 7. "We didn't play very well for the first 30 minutes," the Swede said. "We were not aggressive and gave very little support to our attackers." Spain coach Iñaki Sáez had no such complaints, however, after the 3-0 home victory over Northern Ireland in Group 6. "The scoreline could have been a lot more favourable as we dominated so completely," he said.
Senol Günes admitted his Turkey side were given a scare by Group 7 rivals F.Y.R. Macedonia during the 2-1 win in Skopje. Günes said: "They scored very, very early in the game and we were not good in the first half. Macedonia controlled the play at times but we eventually took control."
Buffel 'always dangerous'
Debutant Thomas Buffel was described as "the future of Belgian football" by Red Devils coach Aimé Anthuenis after the 1-0 win in Andorra in Group 8. The Feyenoord player had a first-half goal disallowed for offside and Anthuenis said: "He was always available, always dangerous."
Sweden substitute Kim Kallstrom also earned praise from his coach after the 1-1 Group 4 draw with Hungary. Tommy Söderberg said: "Kim Kallstrom played very well when he came on and I should really have played him from the start."
Morten Olsen admitted that Luxembourg "gave us a hard time" in a Group 2 match his Denmark side won 2-0. Luxembourg's Danish coach Allan Simonsen, praised his players for "a tremendous job", explaining: "We did not allow them so many chances."
Markov praises players
Group 8 leaders Bulgaria, meanwhile, took "another important step to EURO 2004" with their 2-0 win in Croatia. "I want to thank all the players because they played to their full potential on the pitch," said coach Plamen Markov, who had "special praise" for veteran Krassimir Balakov, playing despite a stomach injury.
Austria on song
Austria coach Hans Krankl said "discipline was the key" to the Group 3 leaders' 2-0 win in Belarus. "Nobody in Austria believed we could win in Minsk," Krankl said. "The win doesn't mean that we will definitely qualify but we have picked up six good points."
The last word must go to Berti Vogts after his first win as Scotland coach, 2-0 away to Group 5 rivals Iceland. "It was a brilliant game from my team and we're back in the competition," he said. "I said before we only needed one win to get things going and this could be a big one for us as this was a strong Iceland team." It is not only the French who can now see a brighter future.
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