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Four-star France impress again

Malta 0-4 France France secure their third consecutive win in EURO 2004™ qualifying.

Defending champions France secured their third consecutive win in EURO 2004™ Group One as they comfortably defeated Malta 4-0 in Valletta.

Bright start
Buoyed by a 5-0 home win against Slovenia on Saturday, France began brightly, and might have scored twice in the opening 12 minutes. First Steve Marlet saw his bouncing shot tipped over the crossbar by Mario Muscat in the Maltese goal, and, from the resulting corner, William Gallas put a free header wide.

Unlucky for Malta
However, France did eventually take the lead in the 25th minute, albeit in fortuitous circumstances. Zinedine Zidane's cross was headed out from under the Malta crossbar, only for Thierry Henry to pick up the loose ball and fire it back into the goalmouth, where Malta captain David Carabott diverted it beyond his own goalkeeper.

Lovely move
The goal visibly settled the away team, and they produced their best move of the half five minutes later. Henry turned away from Darren Debono on the halfway line and played a long cross to Marlet at the far post. Marlet cushioned the ball into the path of the onrushing Zidane, only for his shot to hit the underside of the crossbar and bounce back into play.

Spectacular header
France did not have to wait long to extend their lead, however, as Mikaël Silvestre crossed to Henry whose diving header into the roof of the net gave Muscat no chance. They could even have settled the game before half-time, as Zidane curled a free-kick narrowly wide and Vieira saw his long-range effort turned behind by a sprawling Muscat.

Saving tackle
The second half continued in much the same vein, as Zidane burst clear only to be denied by a last-dich tackle from Debono, before Gilbert Agius had the home side's only shot on target, his long-range effort comfortably held by Fabien Barthez.

Wiltord scores again
It was 3-0 a minute before the hour when Wiltord slid the rebound into the net after Henry had headed Marlet's cross against the crossbar. Marlet then had three presentable chances to get his name on the scoresheet, before substitute Eric Carrière exchanged passes with Wiltord and lifted the ball over Muscat to round off another impressive win for France.

Future fixtures
Next for Malta is a trip to Cyprus in November, while France's next game is the return with Malta, to be played in Lens in March.