France are trying to make Portugal out as the favourites; to take the pressure off
themselves, as current World Champions. Portugal have won all their games, scoring 9 goals
and conceding only two; in their opening game with England.
France lost to Holland in their last group
game, though both teams were already assured of a place in the Quarter-finals and France
fielded a reserve side. They still looked impressive.
In their four games to date, France have also
scored 9 goals; concedingd five along the way. Only Denmark didn't score against
France...... but then the Danes didn't manage to score against anyone.
Both teams have remarkable talent in their
squads, but most people will be watching out for the Zidane-Figo duel. These two men are
creative engines in midfied, but sometimes it's the dead-ball situations where they're
arguably the most dangerous.
The game promises to be a spectacle in the art
of the beautiful game and may the best team win.
There's been no extra-time or penalty
shoot-outs so far, but nerves in the semi-final are often the place for them. No-one wants
to risk losing when they're just 90 minutes from the final of the tournament.
Let's hope for an open game with plenty of
goals. A 3-3 draw would do just fine.
The first-half started slowly, with both teams losing possession around the middle. For a
game that promised so much on paper, Portugal and France gave each other too much respect,
tried to see what the other was up to, and generally testing the turf.
After the quarter-hour, France stepped up a gear and Baia
caught a Thuram header right by the top corner of his goal. It looked destined for the
woodwork, but those rebounds can be nasty.
Then from nowhere, Nuno Gomes
scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the nineteenth minute. The French defence was
caught square as Conceicao came at them, lost the ball then recovered to release a pass to
his left. It looked too far for Gomes but he extended his stride and fired Portugal into
the lead; Barthez, stuck to his spot, seemed stunned by the left-foot screamer.
France were rattled, Vieira and Desailly both went into the
book for rash tackling as France tried to get back into the game; Portugal tight on their
Zidane pushed forward with Thuram and Henry on his right,
but the French shots all flew high.
France missed something with their final pass. Even Zidane
failed to get to a soft return from Vieira. France sorely in need of Djorkaeff to replace
Emmanuel Petit, who's been very ineffective.
Just before the break, Zidane shot just wide of the top
1-1. Thierry Henry brings
France level. Anelka seems to be offside on the right side of the Portuguese area but the
flag stays down. He pulls the ball back to Henry lurking in the area. Scores to the right
of Baia; 51mins.
Neither side could break the other down after the French
In the last minute of normal time, Portugal are given a
free-kick, just outside the French area. Figo takes it... Xavier gets in a clear header,
followed by a superb reflex push over the bar by Fabien Barthez; to take the game into
The game went into extra-time, where the first person to score wins the game. Two halves
of fifteen minutes and if it's still stalemate.... penalties.
Well, the game did get decided on a penalty; three minutes
before the shoot-out was due to start.
The hero -- Zinedine Zidane;
The culprit -- Abel Xavier.
Less than five minutes after Joao Pinto watched his low
shot pass within centimetres of the French post, the Portuguese were out. A technical
knockout delivered by the hand of one of their own defenders.
Trezeguet chased a ball into the Portuguese area.
Baia managed to slap his hands on the ball, but probably
for fear of giving away a penalty didn't get right onto it. It looked like he had done
Then Wiltord pounced on the the loose ball. Shoots.....
Xavier, on the near post, seems to save with his left-hand. But he's not the goalkeeper. Penalty.
Luis Figo takes his shirt off in disgust and leaves the
pitch. He's had enough.
have been nervous. All of France depended on him.
Reigning World Champions had never won the European
Championships, and a goal now would assure the French a place in the final at least.
It seems like ages as he stares at the goal; Vitor Baia on
his line. One against one.
The French midfield maestro shoots the ball into the left
side of the goal -- and France into the final.
The Portuguese leading goalscorer, Nuno Gomes, received a
red card in all the dramatic confusion that continued; amidst French celebrations and
1 -- France 2
Man of the Match:
Although Zidane put France into the final with his golden goal, from the spot, the French
wouldn't have been playing the extra-time at all; had Barthez not pulled off an excellent
reflex save on the ninetieth minute, from Abel Xavier's header.