World Cup 2006: France 2 – Togo 0

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
June 24th, 2006 • 11:32 am

It was of course a big relief to see this French finally manage to score a couple of goals and ensure their qualification. But there are still far too many questions marks and concerns that were not exactly alleviated by this performance.

The first and main one is what happened after the second France goal. Once again, just like in the game against Korea, the French stopped playing, by which I mean that they stopped attacking and trying to score a third goal.

This time it did not cost them. And admittedly even if Togo had managed to score one goal France would still have qualified—but that was because of the events unfolding in the other game between Switzerland and Korea. Domenech himself admitted in a post-match interview (in French) that the pressure was gone in the last 10 minutes of the game when they heard that Switzerland was leading 2-0.

But what kind of attitude is this? You don’t absolutely need to score a third goal, so you stop playing altogether? Isn’t the World Cup more about the beauty of the game than about absolutely preserving a result that gives you a razor-thin advantage? We have seen too often late goals that completely change the complexion of a game and the situation of a team in a tournament. What was guaranteeing that Korean wouldn’t score late goals in their game?

I just find this attitude unacceptable. Sure, the French players were under a lot of pressure and there was a natural tendency to try and preserve the 2-0 score line once it was established. But this is not an isolated incident. The exact same thing happened against Korea, with nearly disastrous consequences. And France is not the only team with such a problem. England appear to have the same kind of problem. It has cost them in the past, and they are lucky that it hasn’t cost them so far in this tournament.

If France really want their fans to regain confidence and show some enthusiasm, they have to show some enthusiasm themselves, and not behave like calculating strategists that only do the minimum that was expected from them and then stop playing.

Other problems in this game included the lacklustre performance by Thierry Henry. He scored a good goal, but otherwise didn’t have much impact on the game at all, which was quite disappointing. Both Trézéguet and Ribéry had some glorious chances, but failed to convert them and will need to be much more clinical if France is to go farther in this tournament. Zidane was not exactly missed, and Vieira had a pretty good performance all round, scoring the first and assisting on the second. But Makelele and Silvestre were far from impressive. There is hope that Makelele just had an off day, but I for one will definitely be glad to see Abidal back in the squad.

So, now we get Spain… More Arsenal players facing each other (this time Henry vs. Fábregas and Reyes) but there is a certain inevitability about this, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s sad to hear that Senderos’s World Cup is over and that Graham Poll, who’s usually a good referee these days, had a bit of a stinker in the game between Australia and Croatia, and probably won’t referee any other games in this tournament.

Now the real fun—drama, extra time, etc.—begins. And we’re back to a more reasonable number of games to watch per day!

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