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Tough test awakens France

Published: Monday 14 June 2004, 0.58CET users' finest player of the last 50 years, Zinedine Zidane, said France's opening game was a sign of things to come at UEFA EURO 2004™.
by Adrian Harte
from Lisbon

Match statistics


Goals scored2
Attempts on target6
Attempts off target10
Fouls committed16
Yellow cards2
Red cards0


Last updated: 27/06/2012 11:58 CET


P: Played   
Pts: Points   
Published: Monday 14 June 2004, 0.58CET

Tough test awakens France users' finest player of the last 50 years, Zinedine Zidane, said France's opening game was a sign of things to come at UEFA EURO 2004™.

This was the week when Europe decided. But while voter apathy may have reigned at the polls across the continent, football fans once more had reason to acclaim the man recently voted Europe's greatest player of the last 50 years.

Virtuoso display
Zinedine Zidane, voted Europe's finest player by users in a poll to mark UEFA's Golden Jubilee, single-handedly rescued European champions France from defeat by England with a virtuoso display of skill, spirit and strength of character.

Sublime free-kick
The French captain struck a sublime free-kick deep in added time to underline his breathtaking ball skills and then calmly converted a penalty with the last kick of the game to highlight his dead-eyed determination and rescue France from a first defeat in two years of competitive football.

'Difficult game'
Zidane, despite his worldwide renown, always prefers to do his talking on the pitch and the star of France's 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™ triumphs was typically self-effacing in his post-match verdict. "We have a great team and we want to relive the emotions that we felt in 1998 and 2000," he said. "It was a difficult game and that's the way it's going to be in the whole tournament."

Individual triumph
France's win was a triumph of the individual over the collective, as after Frank Lampard's 38th-minute opener, France had looked distinctly second best to their cross-Channel challengers. But David Beckham's failure to convert from the penalty spot in the 73rd minute, his second such miss in competitive internationals after his less costly slip-up in Turkey last October, was a defining moment.

'Defended so well'
The England captain clearly felt his side's efforts had not been rewarded. He said: "We didn't deserve that, we deserved to win. For 89 or 90 minutes we defended so well. Maybe if I'd scored the penalty we'd have held out but he [Barthez] read me - fair play to Fabien. We've got to pick ourselves up and learn something from it. But we didn't deserve that."

'Not to be'
Goalscorer Lampard agreed with his captain. "The lads are very down," he said. "We thought we'd won it. We had a plan; they're a good side and we knew we had to be solid and drop off and defend well on the edge of our box. If we'd scored the penalty we'd have won, but it was not to be."

Eriksson positive
And that sense of disbelief extended to England manager Sven-Göran Eriksson, who said: "We thought we had the game won and we should have won it. [Now] we have to win two games against Switzerland and Croatia and I think we can do that. We played extremely well against the world's best football team. Now it's up with the heads. Let's hope we can play France on 4 July [in the final]. We can't always have bad luck."

Sinking avoided
His opposite number Jacques Santini, who will coach English club Tottenham Hotspur FC from August onwards, pinpointed the game's turning point as he praised his side. "We patiently took control of the match in the second half," he said. "But the penalty save by Fabien helped us to avoid sinking psychologically and physically. "

Zidane imperious
Barthez definitely emerged a hero with his athletic save to deny former Manchester United FC team-mate Beckham from the spot. A hero certainly: but not a match winner. That singular honour was reserved for Zidane, inevitably voted the Carlsberg Man of the Match. With the imperious Frenchman in such stellar form, few would bet against another Les Bleus landslide as Europe unites in Portugal.

Last updated: 14/06/04 0.26CET