Tue, Jul 01, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Henry bags Cup for France

CONFEDERATIONS CUP The Indomitable Lions chose to go ahead with the final -- its first ever in this competition -- as a tribute to Marc-Vivien Foe, Cameroon's midfielder, who died during a match with Columbia last week

AP , SAINT-DENIS, FRANCE

Marcel Desailly of France, right, holds the championship trophy with Rigobert Song of Cameroon after France beat Cameroon 1-0 to win the Confederations Cup soccer tournament at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis, north of Paris on Sunday.

PHOTO: AP

France retained the Confederations Cup Sunday when Thierry Henry clinched a 1-0 win over Cameroon, the African champion which produced a defiant performance despite the death of teammate Marc-Vivien Foe.

Arsenal's Henry bagged a record fourth goal of the tournament in the 97th minute, deflecting a ball from short range with his knee after a through-ball was missed by Cameroon captain Rigobert Song.

The Africans easily held the European champion at bay ahead of the deciding goal and came closer to scoring during the 90 minutes of regular time than Les Bleus.

The Indomitable Lions chose to go ahead with the final -- its first ever in this competition -- as a tribute to Foe.

"My team really did well to play the way it did," Cameroon's coach Winfried Schaefer said.

"It was a wonderful day of soccer, but also a very sad day. It was important for us to play for the whole of Africa and for Foe. He wasn't just a great player, he was a great man," he said.

Song agreed.

"The result wasn't the most important thing here today. We did this for Marco," he said. "It's just a pity we lost."

Overall, the match was a muted climax to the eight-nation tournament held over the past two weeks.

France, the European champion, won this title two years ago in Japan.

Yet the victory could not fully please coach Jacques Santini, who won his first international trophy.

"It leaves a taste of something missing," he said.

Both teams were despondent over the sudden death of the 28-year-old midfielder who collapsed and later died at Cameroon's semifinal game against Colombia on Thursday.

Foe's memory was keenly felt.

The players from the two teams held hands as they came out of the tunnel, and captains Rigobert Song and Marcel Desailly together held a large photograph of Foe. In the center circle they put their arms around each others' shoulders for a minute's silence.

Lineups

* Cameroon: Idris Kameni; Thimothee Atouba, Rigobert Song, Geremi, Lucien Mettomo; Jean Joel Perrier Doumbe, Modeste Mbami; Valery Mezague, Mohamadou Idrissou, Eric Djemba Djemba, Pius Ndiefi

* France: Fabien Barthez; Bixente Lizarazu, William Gallas, Marcel Desailly, Willy Sagnol (Lilian Thuram 74th); Olivier Dacourt (Oliver Kapo 88th), Ludovic Giuly, Sylvain Wiltord (Robert Pires 64th), Benoit Pedretti; Thierry Henry, Djibril Cisse


The Cameroon players also held the photo of Foe on the podium when they received their silver medals while the 51,985 crowd at the Stade de France chanted Foe's name.

No celebrations

There were no celebrations. The French made no lap of honor, instead following the Cameroon team who took Foe's photo to salute the chanting fans.

The game pitted the tournament's hottest attack, with France finding the net 11 times before the final, against the tightest defense: Cameroon hadn't let in a single goal in its four matches here.

But France, missing Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Vieira, needed what appeared to be a fluke goal to overcome the gutsy Africans as the ball almost ricocheted off Henry into the net.

"The Cameroon players deserved this trophy as much as we did," Santini said.

Cameroon goalie Idriss Kameni admitted he was tired for the final.

"I've hardly slept over the past few days. The images [of Foe] kept coming back into my head," he said. "We missed Foe on the field as a player and off it as someone we could lean on."

France became the first country to win consecutive Confederations Cup titles.

Its feat came at the same venue where France lifted the World Cup trophy in 1998.

The game's first shot on goal came after only 17 minutes when Henry sent Idriss Kameni diving low to his right.

Then Henry finally worked some of his magic down the left flank, flicking the ball over his marker and crossing for Djibril Cisse to head just wide of the post in France's best first-half chance.

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