France knocks Spain out of World Cup
Zinedine Zidane proved that he still has some in the tank yesterday when he broke the back of Spain with France’s third goal, knocking a solid Spanish team out of the World Cup by a score of 3-1.
The two bordering nations were off to a somewhat slow start, with very few quality chances and little action within the first 15 minutes of play.
However, after David Villa put away a penalty in the 28th minute to give Spain the lead, the game came alive.
Suddenly it looked like a match between bordering nations should. Tackles were laid down, players were flying and the play swung from endline to endline, with chances at both ends and counter attacks off of almost every run at goal.
Spain managed to hold off “Les Blues” until the 42nd minute, when Frank Ribery capitalized brilliantly on a through ball from Thierry Henry to tie things up just before the halftime whistle.
In a Cup that so far has had a staggering number of cards given out, Italian referee Roberto Rosetti did a remarkable job with these two rivals. Although the play was physical and challenges where laid down, Rosetti handed out four yellows, mostly all for warranted infractions such as a few delay of games and some tackles from the back.
However, Rosetti still managed to make a controversial call that changed the outcome of the game.
In the 83rd minute Rosetti blew the whistle for a suspect foul ” or dive, whichever way you want to look at it ” giving the mighty Zidane a free kick off center about 30 yards from Spain’s goal.
Zizou whipped in a well-placed ball that deflected and at the back post found the head of Patrick Viera, who blasted it down and off the knee of Sergio Ramos and into the Spanish side netting, putting France up by one.
Spain turned up the volume on the French, bringing the fire from the second portion of the first half back into the game. Despite Spain pressing forward hard, France’s defense managed to frustrate the Spaniards, giving up nothing in front of Fabien Barthez, who came through with more than one trademark punch clearance.
In the end it was the Zizou who broke Spain’s back, taking advantage of a missed touch by deftly dribbling around Carlos Puyol and cutting the ball back to the near post, putting the French up by two with less than a minute to play.
While those who favor an underdog where rooting for Spain ” with its team nearly void of superstars but stacked with solid, reliable players ” it was not to be.
In the end it will be 1998 World Cup champions Henry, Vieira and Zidane who backed their reputations with a victory.
France would be wise, however, to step up its game. In a virtual rematch of the ’98 final, Zizou and company will not get away with allowing Brazil to hang around as they did with Spain.
Most likely it will be France that will be trying to hang on in the quarterfinal.
Underdog Ghana went out with a fight in the final game of its first-ever World Cup finals appearance.
Despite Brazil’s substantial 3-1 victory, it was little more than lack of finishing that prevented Ghana from keeping things even. With close to 10 quality opportunities in the second half alone, had Ghana capitalized on even a couple of the chances it had, the outcome could have been much different for the Brazilians.
Despite not playing its “Beautiful Game,” the Brazilians continued to do what needed to be done and put away their opponent, advancing to the quarterfinals.
Alex Close is a sportswriter with the Sierra Sun. He can be reached at email@example.com
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