WC2006: French resistence breaks Spanish Armada
Great encounter, favourable were the Spaniards. Raul joined Fernando Torres and David Villa to add more attack flair as the French gladly brought back Zinedine Zidane. The Spaniards struck first on 28mins as their pressure paid off to ot only keep the French back but moved them to make one mistake in a crucial area, that of the penalty box. A corner came across to the left and as it was knocked back into the box to Ibanez Pablo, he felt the studs down the back of his heel of Lillian Thuram. The referee gave the penalty decision, Villa stepped up to take and squeezed a low shot narrowly inside the post and just out of Fabien Barthez' reach. Impressively, Sergio Ramos took up the right back role and he was a duck to water, much better than at centre half for Real. Control, vision, and plenty of runs made him quite formidable on the right. Thierry Henry had threated many times to break the offside trap but it proved too tricky a task to accomplish even once, for the defence cleverly stayed up enough when France broke on the attack. But the Spanish armada was foiled when Patrick Vieira looked to play in Henry then instead changed direction for the advancing Ribery, and the much-talked about Marseille midfielder rounded Iker Casillas and touched the ball towards goal, Pablo would have got to it had he continued his run as it bobbled past him.
In the second half France were more the eager on the offence, Spain had been subdued and made more running than attacks on goal. Yet both sides seemed equal and therefore without a breaking chance on goal, the game seemed destined to reach extra time. Vieira had a slight remonstration with Spain coach Luis Aragones and constantly indicated the finger to the lips. With his comments in regard to Henry, Aragones is not a favourite with Vieira and Henry, to name two, and throughout the game Henry was in contest with Carlos Puyol as he was in the European Cup final, where Henry blamed the Barcelona captain of harsh challenges. So in the 82nd minute, Henry had revenge. A loose ball amongst the Spanish defence prompted Henry and Puyol to chase it, with Puyol barging Henry with a shoulder charge, ordinary in the game, but Henry indicated otherwise, wincing then going down clutching his face.
The referee came over instantly to give Puyol a booking, and I wonder if Henry had not gone down, would anything have been given at all because it was a fair shoulder barge that is very commonplace in football. From the freekick delivery of Zidane, the ball came off the head of Xabi Alonso and reached Vieira at the back post, who played the ball back across goal. The ball then deflected off Ramos into the net. This surely would be the winner, but France were allowed to go one better. Cesc Fabregas was closed down by three France players and gave the ball away, picked up by Zidane who went on a run towards goal on the left. Puyol and Pablo rushed back in time to cover but I notice Fabregas just tail off from the attack, as if confident Puyol would stop Zidane. But Zidane came in on his right foot past Puyol, and had Fabregas continued, he would have been in the box and given adequate cover. He wasn't, and as Zidane struck low, Casillas had no chance.
France were knocked, came back well and smartly and then took advantage of Spain's lack of defensive marking, and a dubious freekick award, to take the lead. As Spain pushed up for a last gasp equaliser, they were caught out and conceded again. Spain had never beaten France in a competitive match and last night cemented that fact. France could have been out, Spain looked a lethal side from the outset. How things can change. Henry did feign the contact and I was shocked he would do so, though understand he did it to get back at Puyol, and it worked, ten-fold.