France nails World Cup place thanks to Zidane

13th October 2005, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Oct 12 (AFP) - France coach Raymond Domenech hailed his captain Zinedine Zidane after the Real Madrid playmaker's contribution to the 4-0 drubbing of Cyprus helped secure a place in the World Cup finals on Wednesday.

PARIS, Oct 12 (AFP) - France coach Raymond Domenech hailed his captain Zinedine Zidane after the Real Madrid playmaker's contribution to the 4-0 drubbing of Cyprus helped secure a place in the World Cup finals on Wednesday.

Zidane came out of international retirement to help France relaunch their qualifying hopes that had run into trouble at the midway stage of the Group Four campaign.

And the Frenchman, who admitted that Saturday's 1-1 draw in Switzerland had been one of his worst performances, showed he still has the leadership to take France on another World Cup campaign next year in Germany.

France's 4-0 win however wasn't enough in itself to give them qualification. Thanks to the Republic of Ireland's scoreless draw with pre-match group leaders Switzerland in Dublin, the French topped the group and won direct qualification.

Zidane, whose mediocre peformance in Berne came after an injury-hit build-up, made sure not to disappoint a Stade de France public and Domenech admitted the player had been one of the keys to their first victory here since their 3-0 win over the Faroe Islands.

"(His performance) didn't surprise me. We all know his qualities and what he's capable of," said the coach.

Djibril Cissé, the Liverpool striker who is fighting for a regular first team place at Anfield, missed numerous goalscoring chances but was given the benefit of the doubt and allowed to play on.

Domenech explained: "Cissé wasn't at his best tonight but I felt it was right to keep him on. As he showed later in the match he consistently pressed their defence and kept them under pressure."

While Cissé showed glimpses of his potential, but ultimately a lack of goals, Zidane showed he is back to his best - even if it was against medium-level opposition.

No doubt, Domenech will be hoping Zidane doesn't go back on his decision to stay with the national team through Germany.

Zidane's brilliant opener from close range opened up the floodgates and France went into the dressing room with a 3-0 lead.

Lyon forward Sylvain Wiltord added to his opener three minutes later after Cissé, whose ball possession at times must have proved frustrating, decided he couldn't beat the entire Cypriot defence.

Instead, he looked up and sent the unmarked Lyon forward through to beat Michale Morphis from close range.

Cissé missed yet another great chance after he was fed the rebound from a blocked Cypriot freekick and he ran 30 yards with the ball at his feet only to drive his shot straight at Morphis.

"Sometimes there's days like that," lamented the flamboyant Liverpool striker. "I have to say thanks for everyone, from my teammates to the coach and the fans for not getting on my back and whistling me. It's a relief to have qualified."

Just over 10 minutes later Vikash Dhorasoo raised the roof beating his markers to send a superbly placed shot with the outside of his foot past the keeper from a tight angle.

France were in the driving seat, but the second half proved more frustrating as chance after chance was wasted - and the sceptre of a Switzerland win in Dublin was never far away from their minds.

Domenech soon replaced Wiltord with Ludovic Giuly, and he eventually repaid the gesture finsihing off a superb sequence of passes to claim the fourth goal.

Willy Sagnol, who provided the pass for Zidane's 28th minute opener, admitted: "We wouldn't be in this position if it wasn't for the result in Dublin, although that doesn't take anything away from our own efforts throughout qualifying."

Domenech's role in leading France into next year's World Cup in Germany may bode well for the former world champions' future.

Domenech, often the target of criticism in France because of his quirky management style and tense relationship with the press, will have to convince his employers further if he is to hang on to his job after 2006.

France's qualifying campaign has been far from perfect - and the last time they went to the World Cup, under Roger Lemerre in 2002, they exited embarrassed at the first round without a win.

France may now be qualified, but the general feeling in the country is that Domenech, who in the dressing room has been accused of failing to forge a loyal team, has failed to convince.

To read Wednesday's press, it appears the knives are out.

For France Football, the country's leading bi-weekly football magazine, Domenech wouldn't be missed if he left immediately.

"Whether France qualifies or not, there has to be a huge question mark over his place in French football and his method of management given the performances of the team in qualifying."

For the Ouest-France newspaper, France's biggest-selling daily, Domenech's style - which is often described as "proud and unflinching" - has done nothing to help further the team.

"Looking beyond what has proven to be a laborious qualifying campaign, what stands out most is the apparent fragility of a team that doesn't seem to be behind him at all. It could spell a quick end for Domenech, even if the team qualify as group winners."

Some newspapers even published a list of potential successors to Domenech.

However the question over his future role with the team, his French Football Federation (FFF) employers reminded, lies squarely with them.

"At the end of the day it's me who will decide. I don't want to be influenced by what is being said in the newspapers," said FFF president Jean-Pierre Escalettes.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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