The all-time World Cup

March 1st 2005
Pasadena, Rose Bowl
4-1 (2-0)

      GOALS                    8'  1-0  Laurent Blanc
                              34'  2-0  Thierry Henry
                              59'  3-0  Michel Platini (penalty)
                              62'  3-1  Tony Cascarino
                              69'  4-1  Jean-Pierre Papin

      REFEREE                 Cesar David Arnaldo Coelho (Brazil)

      ATTENDANCE              94,000

      YELLOW CARDS            Deschamps (FRA) - McGrath (IRE)

      RED CARDS               Roy Keane (IRE)

      FRANCE (coach: Aimé Jacquet, system 4-4-2)

      16 Fabien Barthez
      15 Lilian Thuram
       8 Marcel Desailly
       5 Laurent Blanc
       6 Maxime Bossis
      11 Raymond Kopa                (-77)
      10 Michel Platini
       7 Didier Deschamps (captain)
      20 Zinedine Zidane
      18 Eric Cantona                (-83)
      12 Thierry Henry               (-62)

      17 Jean-Pierre Papin           (+62)
      14 Jean Tigana                 (+77)
       9 Just Fontaine               (+83)

      IRELAND (Coach: Jack Charlton, system 4-4-2)

       1 Pat Bonner
       3 John Carey
      12 David O'Leary
       5 Paul McGrath
       2 Dennis Irwin
       8 John Giles                  (-70)
       6 Roy Keane (captain)
       7 Liam Brady (2nd captain)
      11 Steve Heighway              (-76)
      20 Niall Quinn
       9 John Aldridge               (-46)

      18 Tony Cascarino              (+46)
      13 Billy Whelan                (+70)
      10 Don Givens                  (+76)


    Raymond Kopa (1958), Michel Platini (1978) and Zinedine Zidane (1998) were big stars in World Cups twenty years apart, but together they put on a show against the Irish. French coach Jacquet had taken the risk of picking three playmakers only supported defensively by captain Deschamps, hoping they would be able to overpower Ireland's stars Giles, Keane and Brady. They knew they could make everything clear as far as qualifying for the second round was concerned, and the French generals immediately took control. With Cantona in front of them they had a fine target man and Thierry Henry, preferred to Fontaine this time, ran into the gaps in the Irish defence. Ireland didn't know what to do against it, tried with a lot of physical effort but ended up short. Not unlucky to escape with 4-1.

    Ireland knew that had to avoid defeat if they wanted to keep things in their own hands. Charlton, as usual, played with two big men in attack. He chose Quinn this time alongside John Aldridge. Steve Heighway played more from midfield than against Chile. But from the first minute on they wouldn't see much of the ball. France, in a bloody hot Rose Bowl, wouldn't leave any doubt about their intentions. Zidane took Dennis Irwin all over the pitch, doing magical things, Kopa impressed with neat passes always finding the right man and Platini sent long, inch-perfect passes to his forwards. Henry was the better of Johnny Carey for as long as he was on the pitch. Ireland in attack were left without a chance. Quinn was chained by Desailly and Bossis didn't have much trouble controlling Aldridge.

    And France showed the difference in class in the score as well. Completely left unmarked, sweeper Laurent Blanc headed Zidane's corner kick behind Pat Bonner. McGrath and O'Leary had been looking for Desailly and Bossis, but didn't realize that Blanc was the best header in the French team. That was after 8 minutes and Ireland knew that this was going to be a hard night for them. They tried to free themselves from the pressure but France, in compelling style, wouldn't let them. They held a firm grip on the match. Cantona missed alone with Bonner and Henry, after a brilliant exchange of passes between Zidane and Cantona had crafted the opening, missed only just. But a second goal simply wasn't to be denied. Platini released one of his famous passes and Henry, marker Carey nowhere, shrugged off McGrath's tackle and this time made no mistake: 2-0 after just over half an hour, and the game virtually over.

    Ireland, where were they? No threat in attack, in midfield without a chance and defenders all in pain. Had it seemed to be over after Henry's goal, it was over when France got a penalty kick with a quarter of an hour gone after the break. McGrath had pulled Cantona down and referee Arnaldo Coelho could do nothing but show a yellow card to the big centre back and point to the spot. Platini came over and knew no mercy: 3-0. Shortly after however Cascarino, who had entered the game during the break in place of Aldridge, scored the 3-1 after Thuram had neglected to clear Heighway's cross. Hope arose in the hearts of the Irish soldiers who would never surrender. Roy Keane's shot was saved by Barthez. But then the curtain fell. Another irresistable solo from Zidane split up the Irish defence and the maestro kept a open eye for the free man. A simple flick of the foot took the ball to Papin who hammered it past Bonner. After coming in for Henry, it was Papin's first touch of the ball.

    The game now became more grim, but Arnaldo Coelho wouldn't let it get burnt. When Keane brutally fouled Zidane, without the intention of playing the ball, the referee gave him his marching orders without hesitation. A hard decision, but a justified one. Captain Keane had played on the very edge, but now had gone too far. The red card meant as well that Keane would miss the decisive match against Belgium. France, with 11 against 10, of course kept on combining and remained the better team. Fontaine, who came on late in the match, struck the post but France knew they had done enough. They had demonstrated again to belong to the best teams of the tournament with the possibility of setting up a surprise against the biggest favourites. It would be very interesting to know how they would fare against teams like Brazil, Holland and Germany but with a match, at home, against Chile coming up, the world had to wait for the answer until at least the second round. That place was certain after this display cum-laude. Ireland would get a last chance against the Belgians but didn't have it in their own hands anymore.

    Huge favourites Brazil prepare for their second match which will certainly be a bigger challenge than the first one against Cameroon which they won easily 6-1. Eusebio and Portugal meet the Selecao in Paris on Friday. The whole world awaits with great expectations this encounter between the Brazilians and the European Brazilians. They think that the strong Portugese attack might upset the Brazilian defence but it's almost certain that Pelé and Co. will do the same with the Portugese defence. A game with a high score? Who knows. Mario Zagalo told the press he was utterly satisfied that his team had been able to handle the enormous pressure for the first match and he is unlikely to change much to his side. Otto Gloria was a happy man too since the win against Northern Ireland put Portugal in the driver's seat for a place in the second round. A loss against Brazil is calculated, the more a reason to make it a superb match without fear of losing. Referee Georges Capdeville plays, so to speak, a homematch.


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