Defending champions France ensured they finished their UEFA EURO 2004™ Group 1 qualifying campaign with a 100 per cent record with a comfortable win against Israel.
Les Bleus' perfect record left their coach Jacques Santini purring. "It was important to seal eight out of eight fro afew reasons. We want to keep our continuity. We want to keep enjoying ourselves. For the first hour it was very, very positive."
Arsenal's French connection
France opened their account in the eighth minute when Robert Pires picked out his Arsenal FC team-mate Thierry Henry in the penalty area and the striker steered a right-footed shot low into the right-hand corner of the net. However, Israel were not disheartened by the goal, and went close themselves 13 minutes later. Full-back Alon Harazi raced up the right flank before cutting inside and unleashing a low left-footed shot from 20 metres that cannoned off the post.
Class tells again
The home side's class told again three minutes later, though, as they doubled their lead with a vintage strike. Zinedine Zidane spread the play for Henry on the right and when his deft header landed in the path of David Trezeguet, the Juventus FC forward calming slipped the ball over advancing goalkeeper Nir Davidovitch.
Jean-Alain Boumsong ended the game as a contest three minutes before the break as he claimed his first international goal, The AJ Auxerre defender timed his run to the near post to perfection before glancing Zidane's right-wing free-kick into the net.
There was no let-up for Davidovitch after half-time as France poured forward, and he did superbly to tip Trezeguet's header over the crossbar. The Israel goalkeeper showed his quality again in the 68th minute, this time producing a double-save to keep out a pair of Benoît Pedretti drives.
Revivo goes close
Israel captain Haim Revivo hit the crossbar with a swirling drive 14 minutes from time, but it was France's night and the celebrations duly started after the full-time whistle with fireworks raining down on the Stade de France.
Neither of the previous teams to qualify for the UEFA European Championship with a perfect record - France in 1992 and the Czech Republic eight years later - progressed past the group stage in the finals, but Santini's side can be forgiven for not worrying about that just yet.