Euro 2004: Quarter-Finals, France 0 – Greece 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
June 25th, 2004 • 11:41 am

Now that was embarrassing. As much as the first quarter-final on Thursday night was a tight contest, there was never much doubt about the outcome of this game. The Greeks had a game plan, and it worked to perfection. Similarly to what happened during the group stage, the French didn’t seem to know how to deal with a compact defense that was denying them any clear-cut chances.

It’s a bit easy for Santini to put the blame on the players. It’s a bit easy for Silvestre to say that they lacked a bit of fantasy. The truth is that the whole team’s performance was appalling — and that the manager didn’t seem to have a strategy at all. The defense didn’t have any authority whatsoever, and would have been punished many more times by more offensive opposition. Silvestre was a disaster throughout the tournament, and again today, when he didn’t offer any cover when Lizarazu let the Greek winger run past him and no one was marking the scorer. Lizarazu was full of zest, but unable to channel it into some kind of meaningful contribution. It’s one thing to run around the defense into the penalty box as a left back. It’s another thing to finish with a good pass to a striker instead of trying to go for glory yourself.

Makelele was an embarrassment to the team and the country. Ever since this player started thinking that he was worth more than Real Madrid were willing to pay him, he’s been a disaster waiting to happen. Well, it’s happened. First he and Desailly brought shame to Chelsea with their attitude in the Champions’ League semi-final. And now this. I kept an eye on him during the game. He didn’t do a thing. He committed stupid fouls and kept losing the ball when he was trying to pass it. This guy is not even worth being on the bench. What Real Madrid and Chelsea saw/see in him, I have no idea. Talk about overrated.

Zidane, Pirès, etc. were just average — which was obviously not good enough. Thierry tried a bit harder, but his only good chances came on headers, which are not his forte. When he had the ball on his foot, he seemed strangely tame. It’s hard to understand. I don’t think it’s just the gridlock of the opposition’s defense. There’s something in him that just doesn’t click in big games yet. Hopefully he’ll work this out in the next couple of years and be ready for the World Cup.

But first France will have to find a new manager and to force a number of players into retirement if they are not willing to go themselves. It’s going to be a tough job. Who do you keep? Can Pirès still perform at this level? It’s not obvious. Does Trezeguet really do anything? It doesn’t look like it. There are many questions.

The first one is going to be to try and find which team to root for now. The Czechs, maybe? :-)

3 Responses to “Euro 2004: Quarter-Finals, France 0 – Greece 1”

  1. vaag says:

    It’s easy to blame those who have to carry the water (Makelele, Silvestre, etc.), especially when they are not playing with Arsenal, but you are far too mild to call Zidane’s play as ‘just average’ and Henry’s as ‘tried a bit harder’. Zidane had his two minutes of greatness against England, but yesterday’s game surely was one of his worst performances ever. The same with Henry: he didn’t have one rush in four games, that tells it all. These players are bored, they have seen it all before. I really wonder if they still can be the pillars of the next winning world cup team.
    For me this tournament is all about coaching, about the weasels (Eriksson, Santini, Trappattoni) who don’t dare to take any risk, hanging on their saturated stars till the bitter end and who were rightly kicked out, and the intelligent braves ones (Brückner, Scolari) who will march on in glory.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    Each player’s performance can be evaluated differently depending on a number of factors. But I fully agree with you on the importance of the coaching in this tournament. The Greeks are the perfect example.

  3. vaag says:

    Greece has always been a badly managed team, an unstructered lot of sheer individualists, often hot-tempered too. Rehnagel changed this attitude and made a real group out of them, as Hiddink did before in a slightly different setting with South Korea at the World Cup 2002. Somehow this should be basic stuff for every good manager.
    I was refering to the capability of some managers to read the game and act/react in an intelligent way to force the game to their will. So far Rehnagel really hasn’t been tested in that respect. Next they have to play the Chech Republic. I’ll wait and see who will outsmart who.

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