France started the defence of their FIFA Confederations Cup title with a 1-0 victory against Colombia in Lyon.
Thierry Henry’s 39th-minute penalty was enough to leave the French in second spot in Group A on goal difference after Japan’s 3-0 win against New Zealand in the tournament's opening match on Wednesday. Despite the narrow scoreline, France coach Jacques Santini was pleased with his side’s display in front of 38,000 fans at the Gerland stadium.
Santini said: "It's a great source of satisfaction because Colombia were just as we expected - well-organised and with a lot of good players. We knew that physically we would be more tired than usual at the end of the game and that we would have to show real team spirit."
The European champions, without Zinedine Zidane, Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieria, were slow to find their usual rhythm before creating several good openings midway through the first half. Djibril Cissé sent one over the bar from a Sylvain Wiltord cross and another into Oscar Córdoba's gloves, while Henry failed to find the target with a looping effort.
The breakthrough came when Rubén Darío Velázquez handled Wiltord's cross from the right and Henry stepped up to score his 19th goal in 47 appearances for France from the spot. Olivier Dacourt nearly doubled France’s lead two minutes later but his shot hit the post. That was as close as France came to scoring again, although Velázquez nearly equalised in the closing minutes only to hit the woodwork himself.
Earlier, Japan had midfield player Shunsuke Nakamura to thank for their 3-0 victory against New Zealand in Paris. The Reggina Calcio man scored twice, either side of a goal from Hidetoshi Nakata, to give Zico's side a winning start. On Friday, France play Japan in Saint-Etienne in a repeat of the 2001 final. Tonight, Turkey take on the United States and Brazil meet Cameroon.
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