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Newz Forum: SOCCER: England stunned by the French

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posted on Jun, 13 2004 @ 04:33 PM
David Beckham's missed penalty cost England dear as they were dramatically ambushed in their opening Euro 2004 game in Lisbon. Zinedine Zidane grabbed two goals in injury-time to cancel out Frank Lampard's first-half opener and grab an astonishing come-from-behind victory.

Zidane equalised with a superb long-range free-kick then moments later blasted away the match-winning penalty after David James up-ended Thierry Henry in the box. It was an amazing end to a match which England seemed to have in the bag after Lampard headed home Beckham's 38th-minute cross. And Beckham's 72nd-minute penalty which was saved by Fabien Barthez did not seem to matter as England battled away. Sven-Goran Eriksson's men had clung on through an increasingly frantic second half with defensive replacement Ledley King outstanding in relegating Henry to a virtual passenger.

Frank Lampard had given England a first-half lead when he rose to head home David Beckham's free-kick. The brilliant Wayne Rooney won England a second-half penalty, but Beckham saw his spot-kick saved by Fabien Barthez. Zidane equalised with a free-kick and then converted from the spot after David James fouled Thierry Henry. The atmosphere at the Estadio Da Luz was electric as France and England embarked on their Euro 2004 campaigns. And while England captain Beckham and France skipper Zidane, team-mates at Real Madrid, exchanged pleasantries in the tunnel before kick-off, there was no room for friendship on the field. The pre-match hype - the game being England's biggest since their World Cup quarter-final defeat to Brazil in 2002 - added an extra edge to the encounter where duels between club team-mates were abundant. Henry of Arsenal faced Sol Campbell in an England defence shorn of the services of John Terry, who was replaced by Ledley King.

England coach Sven-Goran Eriksson opted to stick with the 4-4-2 formation which had worked so well in the 6-1 Euro 2004 warm-up win over Iceland. England's midfield quartet of Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Lampard and Beckham settled quickly, allowing them to absorb some early France pressure.

38 mins: Frank Lampard heads England ahead from David Beckham's free-kick
68 mins The ineffective Michael Owen leaves the field
73 mins: David Beckham sees his penalty saved by Fabien Barthez
90 mins: Zinedine Zidane curls in a superb free-kick
93 mins: Zidane converts a penalty to hand France victory

Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Robert Pires produced the fluid football so typical of the French, to whom the first real goalscoring opportunity fell when David Trezeguet headed over from Vieira's precision cross. For England, Scholes combined well with the outstanding Rooney before the Manchester United midfielder picked out Michael Owen going in on goal. Only the close attention of William Gallas prevented Owen from testing Barthez as France cleared their lines. Gallas also had to be alert to deny Gerrard, who had surged into the area following an England counter-attack. King, who was starting his first match for England, looked impressive and the anonymity of Henry in the first half owed much to the Spurs defender's concentration at the back. The England defender made an important clearance to cut out Vieira's flick-on as France sought to test David James. Yet in truth, for all France's possession, England goalkeeper James had little to do in the first half. And England's controlled approach - epitomised by the superb holding play of Rooney - paid dividends just before half time.

Lizarazu sent Beckham tumbling on the right-hand side of the France area and the England captain picked himself to deliver a teasing cross which Lampard headed past a stationary Barthez. Henry won a late penalty for France It was the first time the French defence had been breached in 11 games, but that record was of no interest to England's fans, who could not contain their glee. The onus was very much on France to pick up the pace after the break and one lightning quick counter-attack saw Vieira surge forward before finding Henry, whose curled shot was gathered by James.

Henry started to become more influential as the game wore on, but it was the raw aggression of Rooney that stood out as he tormented France with his power and pace. If England had anything to prove it was that they could produce a strong second-half display. Eriksson replaced the ineffective Michael Owen with Darius Vassell in an attempt to freshen things up and, just as signs of weariness were creeping into the play, Rooney stormed forward. The Everton teenager was crudely hacked down by Mikael Silvestre, who was fortunate to receive only a caution, and England were duly awarded a penalty. But Beckham saw his spot-kick brilliantly saved by Barthez to give France a lifeline. And England were made to pay a heavy price for that miss in the dying minutes of the game.

Substitute Emile Heskey needlessly gave away a foul on the edge of the area and the imperious Zidane strode forward to send a curling free-kick past James. And England then lost all sense of discipline when Gerrard attempted a dangerous back-pass to James, with Henry in close pursuit. The France striker pounced on the loose ball and was hauled to the ground by a despairing James. Referee Markus Merk pointed to the spot and Zidane showed no nerves as he converted the penalty with aplomb to hand France victory and control of Group B.

BBC Sport

[Edited on 13/6/04 by TRD]


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