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Rediff News  All News  » Sports » Zidane finale creates instant classic

Zidane finale creates instant classic

Last updated on: June 14, 2004 14:10 IST


France began Euro 2004 the way they ended Euro 2000 when stoppage time goals sealed a momentous 2-1 win over opponents who seemed all set to defeat them.

On Sunday two goals from World Player of the Year Zinedine Zidane gave them a truly spectacular 2-1 win over England to climax an outstanding Group B match at the Luz Stadium.

Four years ago France wrested the Henri Delaunay trophy from Italy's grasp in the final in Rotterdam when an injury time goal from Sylvain Wiltord and a Golden Goal winner from David Trezeguet turned round what appeared a certain 1-0 defeat.

Zidane's free kick a minute into stoppage time and a penalty from the incomparable French maestro with only four seconds of playing time remaining shattered England's dreams of winning an opening match in the tournament for the first time.

After leading through a first-half header from Frank Lampard, England had a glorious chance to go 2-0 ahead after 74 minutes when Zidane's Real Madrid club mate David Beckham stepped up to take a penalty against his former Manchester United team mate Fabien Barthez.

But the French goalkeeper guessed correctly and brilliantly saved the England captain's kick.

As the clock clicked past 90 minutes, France still had not breached an England defence in which the emergency central partnership of Sol Campbell and Ledley King had dominated the French strike force of Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet.

Young and internationally inexperienced, King, who played alongside Campbell at Tottenham Hotspur early in his career, showed he had learnt well from the master Campbell has become, blocking, clearing and tackling superbly.

French coach Jacques Santini described England's performance as "remarkable" after the game but said even with England ahead with the 90 minutes played, he never gave up hope.

He was right to keep the faith even though France's performance had clear echoes of their opening game at the 2002 World Cup when they lost 1-0 to Senegal as world champions.

This time France rode their luck in a game with more sub-plots than the most convoluted spy novel.


Inter-club rivalries all over the pitch added to the derby feel of a game between two of sport's great rivals.

The dramatic stadium setting, the tens of thousands of chanting English fans and their flags, and a superb level of technical play from both sides made this a match that will be talked about for years.

It not only recalled France's dramatic win over Italy in 2000 but also Manchester United's 2-1 Champions League victory over Bayern Munich in 1999.

Then the English, including Beckham, turned defeat into victory with two stoppage time goals. This time the England skipper walked off the field in utter disbelief.

There was so much to savour in England's performance that once the initial pain of the shattering loss eases, they should qualify with ease and reach the quarter-finals.

Santini said the top players on both sides cancelled each other out, although in the end that was not quite true.

Zidane, one of the greatest players of all time, clearly shone brighter than all the rest.

The main debit for England was a sluggish performance from Michael Owen in attack and Steven Gerrard spoilt an otherwise notable performance with an under-hit backpass to James who brought down Henry for the penalty.

France looked lightweight in front of goal, and Mikael Silvestre had a poor game, allowing Lampard time and space for his goal and fouling Wayne Rooney to concede France's penalty.

Yet the inter-passing, the vision, the tackling, the invention and the drama made this game truly a one-off.

It could be topped only if they meet in the final here in three weeks' time. On this form, both will take some stopping.

Mike Collett
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