Lame Brazil rumbled by France again
Practically as it was in the summer of 1998 in Paris, Brazil surrendered their World Cup route to the cup to France with a performance that equalled to that of England's, but worse. Worse because we did ours with ten men and kept out difficult Portugal and needed penalties to sepearte us from the tournament forever. Brazil had eleven and simply failed to show up. This is the same Brazilian side found wanting against Croatia, Australia, and Ghana and failed to take heed. It was as if they had to turn up and play football and the rest would fall into shape. But that is fairytale, they came up against a rejuvenated France side who found some resolve to beat Togo 2-0 to ensure they went through and had Zinedine Zidane come back in time to link with Patrick Vieira and a spirited Franck Ribery to finally inspire their win over Spain.
For Brazil to have not seen this meant they did not take things seriously. Ghana came ever so close to unravelling them, the scoreline in that game didn't tell as big a message as this quarter-final eventually did. Percentage of possession was 50-50 and Brazil had not gained theirs from being in the French half the most so both sides enjoyed possession in Brazil's half, telling you the French were the most energetic in attack. Eric Abidal (finally spelt it right), Florent Malouda and Zidane connected well down the left because Cafu was not playing well. I think it is time for him to step down from the squad for good, his passing was overhit, his pace was tested and failed and his vision was poor. Roberto Carlos was no better when given time on the ball, in fact even Kaka struggled in midfield once Zidane stuck to his own words 'I play my game as if it was my last.'
While the ITV commentary of Clive Tydlesley and David Pleat salivated over Zidane's moves on the ball like savages beside a hot spit of boar, Zidane added the touches of skill necessary to get the job done. That wasn't to find Claude Makelele, shoot at goal or showboat like a circus performer. It was to gain and hold control in midfield, practically wherever he was at the time. It wasn't fancy, it was to dictate in order to hold Brazil from taking over and going offensive. Carlos Alberto Parreira made the error of dropping Adriano to the bench for an extra midfielder, for Brazil were capable of working round a five-man midfield and leaving Ronaldo and Adriano to work the defence. Juninho didn't shine, at the back Lucio had a battle with Henry and Juanwas found short on occasion where France should have capitalised on. Constant passing around the back consumed time, as if they had little game plan once France had numbers behind the ball, and the amount of times a simple pass was mis-controlled was amazing. It was a matter of time with such lapses that France would breach through.
A needless freekick on the French left was floated over all gathered within the penalty spot except for Thierry Henry to lurk mischieviously at the rear to volley past Dida. It was so sharp and quick it was a second before it was confirmed a goal. From then Brazil then began to play, Adriano was on for Juninho, and suddenly the offensive was Brazil's, but it was too late. Ronaldo tried to bustle his way through but one France player simply blocked the ball and another cleared it away. At the back France were strong, it need not be extravagant, it just needed to be firm and no-nonsense and that is exactly why Brazil did not score. A well-earned move into the semi-finals to face Portugal in Munich on July 5th, kick off is 8pm.
I now sense a Germany v France final.