France turn on the style…..against village rivals
11 June 2008
CHATEL-SAINT-DENIS – William Gallas had earlier in the day called for goals after Monday’s drab 0-0 draw with Romania and France produced them here on Tuesday – albeit against a side made up of local youngsters.
Blue-uniformed police were dotted around the surrounding fields of the Chatel Saint Denis stadium but for what purpose was unclear unless it was to keep watch over a seemingly harmless herd of Jersey cows grazing by the corner flag.
On the pitch, the cream of the French team was limbering up for this game, light relief from the next instalment of the group of death against Holland on Friday.
The stadium announcer proudly read out the names of the local side, each one receiving a generous reception from the 1,000 or so crowd that had turned up to watch Les Bleus.
This was clearly not a UEFA-sanctioned affair as it was sent on its way half an hour late, sufficient time to allow the menacing black clouds to roll in off the nearby mountains.
With thankfully not a Romanian in sight the assembled gathering quite naturally wanted goals and with Thierry Henry, absent due to a mysterious and unspecified injury for Monday’s moribund draw, on hand expectations were high.
As one of the policemen made his way surreptitiously over to inspect some bushes behaving strangely – Marco van Basten in camouflage perhaps trying to catch a sneak of Friday’s opposition – the game kicked off with the locals’ number ten displaying some Zidanesque skills to round Sidney Govou in the opening seconds.
On ten minutes Patrick Vieira tried a shot at goal.
Normally this would not be worth noting but given the concern surrounding the Inter Milan star’s state of health after his left thigh injury, it will have come as a relief to all concerned that he was playing a match, even at Chatel Saint Denis.
For the record his effort went high.
Samir Nasri scored France’s first goal at Euro 2008, a neat touch that he and his teammates hope will open the floodgates to crush the Dutch on Friday in Berne.
Perhaps as minutes later Patrice Evra, the Manchester United defender chasing a unique Premier League-Champions League-Euro treble, knocked in the second.
The locals were playing with a lot more offensive fire than Adrian Mutu and his fellow Romanian forwards but as the blue tide continued to press back the white tide Nasri got his double.
Then Francois Clerc came off second best in a clash with the locals’ number 10 who had the good grace to ruffle his hair by way of apology – the gesture didn’t appear to impress the Lyon defender.
Bafetimbi Gomes, who had made only a fleeting appearance in Zurich the day before, was outwitted by the local’s keeper, who was clearly a Rossinerri fan kitted out in black and red.
Hearts must have stopped in the French camp around the half an hour mark when Henry was brought to his knees in the box after a challenge.
He stayed down for a minute then mercifully for French fans everywhere got to his feet, and seconds later scored.
A morale boosting win then, by 7-0, but the real challenge lies an hour or so away in Berne on Friday when Ruud van Nistelrooy et al are waiting to ambush France’s hopes of staying on course for a third European crown.
[AFP / Expatica]
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