Group matches at France 98 played on Thursday, 18th June.
France vs Saudi Arabia in Saint-Denis (4:0).
South Africa vs Denmark in Toulouse (1:1).
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
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; by 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.
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 BartlettM; who returned it first time to
McCarthy and the Ajax player fired underneath Schmeichel.
The Colombian referee must have had his ears burnt from Michel Platini
overnight. Schmeichel was booked and three were 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
The poor substitutes were not in the game long before they were sent
off again. Schmeichel was also booked for time-wasting.
Fortune hit the crossbar in the final minutes, with Peter Schmeichel
at full reach.
South Africa 1 -
Our Man of the Match:
McCarthy, while the second half gets a red card.
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
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.
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 67th minute
cross 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 team to pack their bags.
Saudi Arabia 0
Our Man of the Match:
Brazil, Morocco, Norway, Scotland.
Austria, Cameroon, Chile, Italy.
Denmark, France, Saudi Arabia, South Africa.
Bulgaria, Nigeria, Paraguay, Spain.
Belgium, Holland, Mexico, South Korea.
Germany, Iran, United States, Yugoslavia.
Colombia, England, Romania, Tunisia.
Argentina, Croatia, Jamaica, Japan.
1998 World Cup Finals -
Group Tables - Leading
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