Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Review - July 5, 2006
By Imtiaz Mussa

Zinedine Zidane vs. Luis Figo, Franck Ribery vs. Cristiano Ronaldo, Thierry Henry vs. Pauleta. France vs. Portugal in the World Cup Semis for the right to play Italy in the final.

France vs. Portugal
Portugal welcome back midfield duo Costinha and Deco after bans. Tiago and the now suspended Petit make way. Prior to the World Cup, France coach Raymond Domenech had never named the same side for two successive matches but he has kept faith with the XI that beat both Spain and Brazil.

Luis Felipe Scolari saw his side begin well, with Deco and Figo both forcing saves from Fabien Barthez with low 20-yard drives. Cristiano Ronaldo was being roundly booed every time he touched the ball after his histrionics against England, but he was in fine form and twice had shots blocked as he surged at the French defense. Having made a slow start, Domenech's side took the lead just after the half hour mark. Henry turned just inside the area and according to Larrionda, was brought down by Carvalho, Zidane stepping up to decisively strike the penalty past Ricardo, who managed to get a hand on it. Ronaldo tried to win a spot-kick of his own moments later, but his theatrical dive under the slightest challenge from Willy Sagnol was ignored by referee Jorge Larrionda.

Henry had a chance straight after the restart to double the lead, but after twisting and turning in the box his shot squirmed under Ricardo and out for a corner. Portugal looked far from threatening with the out-of-sorts Pauleta on his own up front and Ricardo had to save Ribery's drive as France stayed in control. The second half was a dire affair, scrappy and lacking any real creativity. Their best chance was down to Barthez. He bizarrely parried a Ronaldo free-kick into the air but from six yards Figo could only head the rebound over. Figo and his team-mates tired badly and they simply could not muster a late rally to provide the French with any sort of threat. And with that, Scolari’s streak of 12 consecutive games without a loss came to an end.

Man of the Match: Zinedine Zidane (France)
The man does not want his career to end just yet. He looks like a 24 year old instead of a 34 year old. We saw the usual Zidane today making runs at defenders, passing the ball beautifully, and controlling the midfield for the French. The French players are inspired by their captain’s performance.

General Thoughts: France
It wasn’t a great performance but the fans in Paris will gladly take it as they return to the World Cup finals for the first time since 1998. Sometimes, it takes a little bit of luck mixed in with great play to get a win. Henry made it look as if he got fouled in the box when truthfully, he could have continued. Carvalho’s foot was right there and Henry took advantage. Vieira and Makelele are doing a tremendous job in the defensive midfield role. It’s allowing Zidane, Ribery, and Malouda to attack with Henry. Their defense will be tough but so will Italy’s.

General Thoughts: Portugal
So Big Phil’s unbeaten run is over. He can blame it on a lack of scoring. Pauleta had a nightmare World Cup getting only one goal which came in the opening minutes of their opening match. The Portuguese defended well and their buildup was good but the finishing just wasn’t there. We did find out that Cristiano Ronaldo is more than capable of carrying the team on this back. He was the only one making runs at the French in the first half but no one went with him. He is ready to become the face of Portuguese football.

Summary
Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel (Paulo Ferreira 63), Meira, Ricardo Carvalho, Nuno Valente, Costinha (Postiga 74), Maniche, Deco, Ronaldo, Pauleta (Simao 68), Figo.
Subs Not Used: Boa Morte, Caneira, Nuno Gomes, Paulo Santos, Quim, Ricardo Costa, Tiago, Viana.

Booked: Ricardo Carvalho

France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery (Govou 72), Vieira, Zidane, Makelele, Malouda (Wiltord 69), Henry (Saha 85).
Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Diarra, Givet, Landreau, Silvestre, Trezeguet.

Booked: Saha

Goals: Zidane 33 pen.

Att: 66,000

Ref: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)

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