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? :-)