World Cup 2006: France 3 – Spain 1

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
June 27th, 2006 • 5:55 pm

Well, well, well… Who would have thought? After the disappointing performances of the first round, where the team just barely managed to get through and was never really impressive, France appear to have just started to click in at the appropriate time.

And that’s all it takes to make a decent game, isn’t it? Two motivated teams with various offensive qualities, an open approach on both sides, a minimal amount of silly theatrics, and a decent referee. Add to that a pretty good scenario, with a reversal of fortune leading to a climactic end of the game, and you get one of the games of the tournament so far.

So there we are. France is probably going to fall in love with Zinedine Zidane all over again, but the true heroes of the night were clearly Patrick Vieira and Frank Ribéry. Ribéry was justifiably carried on the shoulders on the other players for a bit in the post-match celebrations, because it was effectively his performance and his goal that turned things around. The pass from Vieira was very good, but he still had a job and a half to do to beat Casillas and avoid the desperate efforts of the two Spanish defenders.

But he did it, and at the most appropriate time too. France were composed and not dominated by the Spanish, but had fallen behind because of a disappointing, but justified penalty. They could also have conceded a second one soon after, but the referee was somewhat lenient. The fact is that it’s pretty rare to get awarded two penalties in the same game, unless the fouls are really blatant. At some point, if you want to really deserve your win, you have to score a “real” goal and ultimately Spain failed to do that.

France did, on the other hand, and from then on it was game on. Ribéry continued to perform very well, creating quite a few openings. Yet for a long period in the second half, it looked like we were headed towards extra time and penalty kicks. But finally Vieira took matters in his own hands again and took advantage of poor marking on him to score the second goal late in the second half.

Predictably after that Spain tried to press forward for an equalizer, but Barthez had a couple of good interventions, and then the Spanish defense was exposed in over time and Zidane score the third goal with a great movement and terrific finish. Ultimately, the Spanish looked a bit lightweight compared to the French, and you could probably say that the outcome was a fair result.

The only disappointments of the game, from the French point of view, were the rather unnecessary yellow cards collected by Vieira, Ribéry, and Zidane—and Thierry Henry’s performance. Once again, he failed to play a significant role and was repeatedly caught offside.

But hey, how’s going to complain if he finally starts to click too on Saturday against Brazil? Right now, France have achieved the minimum that people were hoping for, and this victory should help build the confidence and make the team gel even more. The game against Brazil is going to be undoubtedly tough, but there is great hope that it will be another good game of offensive football and a real contest.

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