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World Cup Diary

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK

GAME 60, QUARTERFINALS, JULY 1, 2006 --FRANKFURT
BRAZIL 0, FRANCE 1
FINAL


BRAZIL 3-2, because, dear god, give us this day our daily goals.

From Le Monde today: "Des millions de coeurs vont s'arrêter samedi 1 juillet à 21 heures pour ce qui n'est pas un simple match de football mais un vrai sentiment, un carrefour d'émotions héritées de l'histoire, le souvenir encore brûlant d'une nuit d'ivresse : Brésil-France, quart de finale du Mondial-2006. Un premier tour mal maîtrisé et un 8e de finale 'de la muerte' ont remis sur la route des Bleus l'adversaire fétiche, celui qui fait rêver, "la définition du football" selon Lilian Thuram. Un match avec lequel seul un France-Allemagne de Coupe du monde pourrait rivaliser. Et encore."

This is a true epic: In 1958, Brazil's Pele beat France 5-2. In 1986, France eliminated Brasil (with Platini) in penalty kicks. And in 1998, France beat Brasil, with those two Zidane headers, 3-0. to win their first World Cup. A losing record against a team in the World Cup? Brasil is on a losing streak in this one, and they want a little payback. It should be great fun. Lord knows the tournament needs it.

And off we go... The French line-up is a repriese from 1998, with Thurame (but not Trezeguet) in the starting 11. This is really Brazil's first true test. Rolandinho triple-teamed on his first touch. A foul. A free kick for Brazil just outside the box. The shot is deflected for a corner.

Robert Carlos, overdosing on coffee as usual. The Brasilians have come out to play without doubt: another free kick, but Juninho clearly off-side.

8... And the wonderfully named Kaka starting to make his runs: no slumberers on the Brasilian side today, although from France we have yet to see Zizi and Thierry tango with the Brasilian defense.

What a woman wants

10... No French Resistance here. It's all Brazil, again with a free kick from the 24... RONALDO HAD HIS CHANCE, a wide open attempt at goal, but his hummer-weight had him mishit the header toward that sky the space shuttle is about to grace (and we hope only grace). [NASA still planning the semi-suicide mission's launch for 3:49 p.m. today, scheduled then so half-timers can have a look up.]

14... Great battling in the Brasilian box, a corner cleared for a Ribery shot from 25, but rocketed high and wide.

15... The Brasilians are managing to string together their lethal passing game, but their timing is just off--whether it's Ronaldo rising for a header or crosses finding their nailer in the box. Or Ronaldinho trying to find Kaka on the wing.

20... France's Thierry Henry, three goals in 1998, begins his off-side carnival here. It worked in the last game. But this is not youngish, anguished Spain.

24... Cafu yellowed for shirt-grabbing: looking like the lead singer of Fine Young Canibals is no help. France wasting no time to make things happen, dumping cross after cross into the box, but for now Brasil are as good as paddles. Zidane with France's first free kick from lethal range, about 25 yards out... But not so good: a curler above goal.

28... Hmmmm. Brazil playing nervously: Caught flat-footed in a France counter-attack, a Zidane cross into the box that forced an uncharacteristic header out for a corner by Carlos, and then a scissor-kick clear by Ze Roberto: Brazil unnerved? just a touch. They'll slow the game down a touch... Or reply with another counter built on Ronaldo's finish: he tried it, but smothered by the French defense. The game's quality is high, the attacks relentless.

32... France have managed to keep Brasil from being on top of their game in the last ten minutes or so. French attacls have been more coherent, Brazilian counter-attacks more flailing, and lacking style. Zidane with a long cross into the box off a free kick, a dangerous moment again cleared flailingly by the Brazilian defense. Right now the first goal is on France's boot.

Of course Brasil know how to shut us all up doubters in six seconds flat.

37... Zidane on the other hand is perfectly precise with his timing. His goal clock is ticking.

40... Once again a nice build by Brazil, and a cross to no one inside the box. France are dominating play by a small but persistent margin. Excellent passing game for France, a terrific run into the box and a breakaway just cleared for aFrench throw-in, but all ended by an overshot cross into the box. Brazil with a goal kick... that France win easily.

44... Why is Carlos shooting from 35 yards out and away? ... FRANCE WITH A BREAKAWAY AND JUAN TRIPPING PATRICK VIEIRA, IT DESERVED A RED, JUAN GETS AWAY WITH A YELLOW. Clearly a cynical foul, clearly without it Vieira would have been one on one with the keeper, and maybe 1-0 for France. Free kick just outside the box for France as we enter injury time... The first shot is off the wall, but Ronaldo hand-balled it, and he gets a yellow. Not something he can afford, Ronaldo. Now we have another free kick inches outside the box, and inside the arc.

Zidane with the shot...

Off the wall, and bounced off again on the rebounds. Half-time. Shuttle time? No: NASA scrubbed the flight because of weather. New flight time: tomorrow at 2:26 p.m.

Chirac explains the ignorable

Half-time

0-0 at the half of a France-Brazil match? Not in anyone's predictions. The chances were there, the finishes not quite. At this point France are playing more assertively. But Brazil's ability to turn on the onslaughts is unlike any other team's. They must be telling themselves in the locker room at this very moment: conservatism is for losers. Conservatism is for idiots. onservatism is for crooks, cheats and fools.

48... Brazil pressing now, and almost took advantage of a typical Barthez mistake: a cross that found him dazed and confused, but no Brazilians there to make him pay.

Even he's wondering why his team has turned its back on itself

52... Henry and Vieira try a wonderful bit of back-heeled action inside the Brasilian box, forcing a quick clear for a corner. The corner is easily cleared. France maintain possession, and after sustaining that opening-half Brasilian attack, have resumed their pressure on the Brasilian side. A French goal just waved off by a clear off-side, Henry at its usual receiving end.

55... A disasppointing show by Brasil. Still not rising to the occasion. France more crafty and hard working and...

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL HENRY! A CROSS INTO THE BOX FROM THE FAR WING RIGHT TO HENRY'S BOOT FOR A SLAM AGAINST NET! 1-0 FRANCE. HENRY SO PERFECT, AGAIN FROM ZIDANE...

An astounding stat just flashed: Brasil with not a single shot on goal in this game, though it averages nine per game... AND FRANCE WITH A CHANCE THAT LITERALLY SKIMMED GOAL!

64... France still putting together great runs inbto the box, Brazil still managing to do not even that much: Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Kaka: all of them non-entities in this game, shut out and marginalized. Where is the Brasilian team?

68... Brasil assering some possession, but not converting into shots. The drought continues.

70... Dumbass Ronaldo diving just inside the box only to let France break-away all the way to the Brasilian box in a one-on-one that forced Brasil keeper Dida to make a last-ditch save. He's lucky he did. But henry too is vying for the best-actor award, with a dive of his own in the Brazilian box.

75... No, now the Brazilians are playing frustrated, getting carded and booed and sensing loss. Anothe substitution. Cafu is out. Cicinho is in for Brazil. Ribery leaves for France, in comes Govou. Brazil have taken all of two shots this entire match, neither of them on goal.

80... Robinho with a terrific chance on a cross by Ronaldinho into the box, but Robinho, just brought in, must have been a bit cold: his shot had no compass. France playing the clock with substitutions, Zidane, the alleged champion, playing the grass.

86... It's the end of the world as we know it, and I don;t feel fine (much as I love France)

89... Ronaldinho with Brazil's last chance at goal, with a free kick just outside the box, but it culs high. There won;t be much injury time, and there's nothing in Brazil's tank that points to a miracle. This is it: we're heading gtoward an all-European semi-final. It's the World Cup replaced by Euro 2006. Wonderful save for Brazil, but for what? For Brazil's first real shot on goal, saved by Barthez...Now the Brasilians wake up, with two mi9nutes left in injury time...

92... STILL nothing doing, and that's it for Brazil. No, not a major upset, nor one Brasil didn't deserve considering how poorly they played here, but still an astounding result--and a joyful one after all: A France-Germany final? We can only hope.

LA FRANCE BAT LE BRESIL!

The reason France are heading back to the finals

 

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