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Thur. 18th June:
South Africa and Denmark looked like a pair of sparring partners instead of contenders for the Football Heavyweight of the World title. How can teams at this level lack ideas, vision, and lose possession so clumsily?
South Africa received a heavy blow on the chin in the thirteenth minute, when Brian Laudrup chipped in a beautiful ball for Allan Nielsen. The Tottenham midfielder sidefooted the volley home.
Five minutes later, Martin Jorgensen of Udinese almost landed the sucker punch; a curling corner that smacked the far post. Hans Vonk collected Brian Laudrup's attempt to head in the rebound.
South Africa had their chances, with Benedict McCarthy creating most of them. Their midfield play was often slow and clumsy, but once again McCarthy showed why he is in the Ajax team driving an excellent ball across the Danish goalmouth to give South Africa their clearest scoring opportunity. With Schmeichel beaten, Helman Mkhalele would have scored if he had stuck out his toe a little more lively. (Half-time: 0-1).
South Africa came out of their corner needing to get back into the game, and within seven minutes of the restart they had. Like a slow-motion replay John Moshoeu of of Fernerbahce wriggled through five defenders slipped the ball to Shaun Bartlett, who returned it first time to McCarthy -- the Ajax player fired underneath Schmeichel.
The Colombian referee must have had his ears burnt from Michel Platini overnight. Schmeichel was booked and three sent off: First Molnar for a nut cruncher on Radebe after the South African had cleared the ball; then two minutes later Phiri was removed from play after flaying off a challenge from Velveg with his elbow and legs.
I only meant to start this article off as a metaphor, but things really did get hectic. Both teams down to ten men for the last twenty minutes, and and then another red card; for Denmark's Wieghorst because of a challage on the ankle from a behind position.
The poor substitutes were not in the game long before they were sent off again. Scmeichel was also booked for waiting.
Fortune hit the crossbar in the final minutes, with Peter Schmeichel at
The French players can't sing, but they sound like a good bet to go far if they can sharpen up their strike force against eleven players.
Henry threatened on the right wing, crossing for Zidane in the area; twice the Juventus player's shots were blocked. Saudi Arabia survived their first missed heartbeat.
The Saudi rearguard was constantly under pressure. Again and again the French advanced on them, down the flanks, faster than a desert storm.
In the twentieth minute Lizarazu went on another flying raid down the left touchline. Mohammed Saleh AL-KHLAIWI came sliding in, but the ball was gone -- and so was he. Red card of the day number four. The loudest cheer in the stadium probably came from Platini. A harsh decision.
Around the half-hour, the French Keeper had to come out to the edge of his box to snuff out a Saudi Arabian break. Straight to the other end, and Zidane only had an off balanced goalkeeper to beat. Even with the Saudi going the wrong way, Zidane rushed his chance and blasted wide.
At last. In the thirty fifth minute Zidane made up for his earlier hastiness, and served Lizarazu to his left. A little dummy, then straight through a defender's legs for Henry to knock in the fiftieth goal of the tournament. (Half-time: 1-0).
A bit of a red day. Thirteen minutes into the second half, and if the referee was playing according to his earlier game plan, and the that of his Colombian colleague in the earlier game today, then Lizarazu should have been sent off too for bringing down a Saudi clear on goal. Instead he was only booked, and nearly deflected in the free kick with his head; Barthez was going the other way.
Trezeguet scored the second for France, from Thuram's cross, in the 67th minute, and two minutes later they were also down to ten men. Zidane was sent off for following through with a stamp -- red card number five of the day, and Platini must be eating his words.
The French fans were seriously displeased until Henry added his second goal in the 77th minute. A long goal kick was helped on by a Saudi defender, and Henry ran it home. The goalscorer was immediately replaced by the young Pires.
Pires would have a hand in the fourth goal, feeding
Djorkaeff, who back-heeled for Lizarazu to finish off another excellent French play. Saudi Arabia are the first to pack
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