World Champions eliminated

France have defeated World Cup holders Brazil 1-0 at the Waldstadion in Frankfurt, sending the five-time champions home at the quarter final stage.

The architect: Zinedine Zidane showed he's still got it

A second half Thierry Henry strike was enough to see off the Brazilians who didn’t have a shot on target all game in what will be a major disappointment to the South Americans.

World Cup 2006 will now be won by a European team as France join Germany, Italy and Portugal in the final four in what is now one of the most open tournaments in some time.

In the 57th minute Thierry Henry broke the deadlock as French captain Zinedine Zidane lofted a deep free kick into the box for the unmarked striker to steal in at the far post and volley home from close range.

The man they call ‘Zizou’ was the true architect in France’s victory as he showed all the skill and guile of the Zidane of old in a virtuoso performance thoroughly deserving of man of the match honours.

The Brazilians looked flat and didn’t seem to have the formation or tactics to break down a well organised French side, and the fact that keeper Fabien Barthez hardly had to make a save all match was testament to this.

It was one of those games where everything clicked for France with excellent displays across the park, Marseille’s midfielder Frank Ribery, Lyon’s Florent Malouda and Claude Makalele all unsung heroes.

Thierry Henry (c) celebrates withEric Abidal (l) and Claude Makalele
Thierry Henry (c) celebrates withEric Abidal (l) and Claude Makalele

Thierry Henry (c) celebrates with
Eric Abidal (l) and Claude Makalele

For Brazil, Ronaldo tried hard to lead the line but didn’t have much support with key players Kaka and Ronaldinho being unusually quiet and unproductive throughout the match, while it must be questioned whether the World Champs were hindered by the continual selection of ageing and ineffectual fullbacks Roberto Carlos and Cafu.

In the 61st minute Ribery created a chance out of nothing when he beat defender Lucio and sent in what was initially a cross, but turned into a shot when it deflected of a Brazilian defender past keeper Dida and almost into the goal.

Henry went one on one with Lucio in the 69th minute and slipped a nice pass in the path of Ribery with Brazilian keeper Dida flying out to the top of his box to stop the French midfielder’s shot.

Late in the match with Brazil trying desperately for an equaliser, the ball fell to substitute Robinho who was well inside the box, but he flashed his rushed shot well wide.

There were few chances on goal in the first half as both sides battled it out in midfield, shutting down the free-flowing match that spectators had hoped for.

In the 11th minute Brazil forward Ronaldinho floated in a free kick which striker Ronaldo rose to head over the bar at the far post.

On the 17th minutes, Willy Sagnol gave France their first chance of the night when he hit a shot straight at Brazilian keeper Dida who made an easy save.

French supporters celebrate theirside's win over the World Champs
French supporters celebrate theirside’s win over the World Champs

French supporters celebrate their
side’s win over the World Champs

With one minute left to play in the half, Zidane broke downfield and sent a through ball to a flying Vieira who was cynically brought down by defender Juan who received a yellow card when the French players and supporters expected red.

Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo made the correct decision as left back Roberto Carlos was nearby in cover defence.

From the ensuing free kick, Henry blasted his shot into the wall where Ronaldo was adjudged to have blocked the ball with his hand, referee Cantalejo awarding the Real Madrid striker a yellow card of his own.

France then had another free kick to end the half, with Zidane blasting harmlessly into the wall.

The Brazilians go home along with fellow highly rated South Americans Argentina, with recriminations sure to be levelled at coach Carlos Alberto Parreira and some of the senior players.

Raymond Domenech’s French team have gone from disappointing to very impressive within two weeks and must now see themselves as real chances of making the World Cup final after their hugely disappointing tournament of four years ago.

France will now play Portugal in Munich on Wednesday 5th June.

Source: Al Jazeera