Steve Marlet scored twice as defending champions France recorded their second successive win in EURO 2004™ Group 1 by humbling Slovenia 5-0 at the Stade de France in Paris.
It was a particularly sweet moment for captain Marcel Desailly, who was making his 100th appearance in a French shirt. His pleasure at the clean sheet will no doubt have been enhanced by the presence of Chelsea FC colleague William Gallas, who was making his debut alongside his club team-mate in central defence.
Vieira strikes first
France controlled the game from start to finish and the result was never in doubt once Patrick Vieira had exchanged passes with his Arsenal FC team-mate Thierry Henry and slipped the ball past Marko Simeunovic in the Slovenian goal in the tenth minute. It might have been 1-0 five minutes earlier, but Zinedine Zidane’s goal-bound shot was deflected on to a post with Simeunovic beaten.
After France’s explosive start, Slovenia gradually came back into the game, and could have drawn level on 20 minutes. Ermin Siljak raced clear, but his attempted chip failed to clear Fabien Barthez in the home goal. France hit back, and Zidane was again unfortunate on the half-hour mark. Picking up another loose ball, he skipped past two defenders and forced Simeunovic into a spectacular tip over the crossbar.
Marlet finishing touch
On 35 minutes, Henry's through-ball sent Wiltord racing down the right and his unselfish pass left Steve Marlet with a simple finish from less than two metres to double France’s advantage.
Marlet doubles up
France began the second half in leisurely fashion, and allowed their opponents more of the ball without ever looking threatened. Four minutes past the hour, the game was effectively ended as a contest when Lilian Thuram's low cross was turned in at the near post by Marlet for his second goal of the game.
Henry might have added to the lead a minute later after working space for himself inside the area, but fired his shot straight at Simeunovic. However, eleven minutes from time, Wiltord got the goal his performance deserved, playing a one-two with Zidane before breaking into the penalty area and firing into the far corner of the goal.
Substitute Sidney Govou completed the rout four minutes from time, heading Mikaël Silvestre's cross beyond Simeunovic and into the corner of the net. Slovenia had Sasa Gajser dismissed in added time, but by then the result had long since been decided.
Coach Jacques Santini was delighted with the way his side teased their way to their second win in Group 1 after accounting for Cyprus 2-1 in Nicosia last month. "It was important for the [team's] confidence to snatch a success of this kind," he said. "Obviously, we have taken a great step towards our goal which remains to qualify for the European Championship and defend our title." France meet Malta, who lost 2-0 at home to Israel earlier on Saturday, in Valletta on Wednesday.