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Birthday boy sees France through

French midfielder Patrick Viera celebrated his 30th birthday in style as he enjoyed the captain’s armband and the opening goal in his side’s 2-0 victory over Togo, which secured France a berth in the second round.

Last Modified: 23 Jun 2006 21:39 GMT
Birthday gift: Patrick Viera (L) celebrates with Florent Malouda

French midfielder Patrick Viera celebrated his 30th birthday in style as he enjoyed the captain’s armband and the opening goal in his side’s 2-0 victory over Togo, which secured France a berth in the second round.

With usual skipper Zinedine Zidane suspended for the match, Juventus player Viera took over as captain and led by example when he put away a shot from inside the box in the 55th minute after good work by Frank Ribery.

Arsenal striker Thierry Henry sealed the match for Les Bleus, and their place in the next stage when he scored with a low right foot shot in the 61st minute.

The much maligned French who have found it difficult to score eventually broke through when Marseilles midfielder Ribery did some good work to get into the box and lay a pass to Viera who spun and sent a right foot shot into the back of the net giving Togo keeper Kossi Agassa no chance.

Six minutes later, Viera turned from scorer to provider when he headed on a ball to Henry who drove a shot goal bound to make it 2-0.

Thierry Henry scores France's
second goal of the night

It was definitely the birthday boy’s night as he was instrumental in not just both goals, but also in setting up plenty of other chances, and while Ribery had wasted two excellent goal scoring opportunities, he redeemed himself by setting up the goal for his captain.

Juventus striker David Trezeguet was handed his first start of the tournament by coach Raymond Domenech and although he missed some good opportunities, he did look lively and was at least in the right places to take scoring chances.

It was all France in the early stages, and Trezeguet should have opened the scoring in the 22nd minute when he had just the keeper to beat, but headed straight at the Metz based Agassa.

In the 29th minute Ribery had the best chance of the first half, but blasted well over the bar with just the Togo keeper in front of him.

While in the 35th Henry was pulled up by the linesman for a questionable offside when he was about to go through on goal.

On 39 minutes Florent Malouda forced Agassa into another fine save, only for the ball to fall to Trezeguet who drove in a low shot which was parried and spun towards goal, with the keeper recovering and completing the save.

Togo keeper Kossi Agassa was
having a great game until then

The African debutants tried hard all night but didn’t get much quality possession with the French pressing forward for goals.

Togo end a tumultuous two weeks at the tournament which included pay disputes, their coach Otto Pfister walking out, pay disputes, Pfister returning, pay disputes, a missed flight to their match against Switzerland, and finally a resolved pay dispute.

With off field antics such as these, it is no wonder they exit their maiden World Cup Finals having lost three from three, and scoring just one goal.

After a nervous fortnight, France have finished second in Group G behind Switzerland, leapfrogging South Korea who lost 2-0 to the Swiss tonight. 

The French now go into a mouth watering clash with Spain in the round of 16, with the match to be played in Hanover on Tuesday, 27th June.

Source:
Aljazeera
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