Tue, Jun 15, 2004 - Page 20 News List

France breaks Beckham's lionhearts

MISSING CHANCES England captain David Beckham missed a penalty and 'keeper David `Calamity' James blundered (again), allowing France to take the lead

AP AND DPA , LISBON AND LONDON

France's Thierry Henry, right, is fouled in the penalty area by England's goalkeeper David James, left, during their Group B Euro 2004 soccer match on Sunday at the Luz Stadium in Lisbon. France won 2-1.

PHOTO: REUTERS

It was the Euro 2000 final all over again.

In Rotterdam four years ago, France was moments from defeat against Italy in the European Championship final when Sylvain Wiltord equalized deep into injury time. David Trezeguet scored a golden-goal winner and France won its second European title.

Sunday's 2-1 victory over archrival England was possibly even more dramatic.

France was close to its first loss in 19 games having conceded a goal for the first time in almost a year. Then Zinedine Zidane showed why he's the world's best player.

"It was an exceptional game, like we had in 2000 with Portugal and Italy," Zidane said. "In these two matches we managed to reverse the trend, and we did it again."

The France captain powered home an injury time free kick and, two minutes later, a penalty as Jacques Santini's men snatched the unlikely victory. In the space of 120 seconds, England went from the top of Euro 2004 group B to the bottom.

In the Euro 2000 semifinal against Portugal, Zidane scored an injury-time penalty winner with the match heading for a penalty shootout. His nerve held again this time -- but England captain David Beckham's did not.

He went from hero to villain, missing a second-half penalty after setting up England's opening goal for Frank Lampard, in front of a 65,000 sellout at the Stadium of Light filled mostly with English fans.

Lampard's 38th-minute header from Beckham's free kick put England in command and was the first goal given up by France in 1,078 minutes -- 12 games. Beckham earned the free kick after being fouled by left-back Bixente Lizarazu.

Beckham missed a chance to make it 2-0 after Wayne Rooney -- capping a brilliant 40m run down the left side -- was pulled down by Mikael Silvestre. But French 'keeper Fabien Barthez guessed correctly and dived right to stop Beckham's spot kick.

"You have to create your own luck," Barthez said. "At 2-0 the match is over. With a Beckham penalty it is 90 percent luck for a goalkeeper and 10 percent concentration."

Beckham blamed himself for England's loss -- only the second under Eriksson in competitive matches.

"We battled for 89 minutes to win the game and fought really well," said Beckham.

"I hold my hands up to that," he said. "I couldn't have struck it [the penalty] any better, but he read me -- and fair play to Fabien."

Eriksson believes England should have won.

"We definitely deserved to win, we played really well," he said. "We have to overcome this very quickly and start again."

The victory puts France in command of Group B after Croatia and Switzerland played a 0-0 draw in the day's first match.

Zidane curled in a 23m free kick in the first minute of injury time to jolt a stadium filled mostly with English fans.

France earned the chance after Emile Heskey's crude foul on Claude Makelele. Zidane's kick looped over the wall and dipped viciously, giving 'keeper David James little chance.

In the third minute of stoppage time, striker Thierry Henry ran onto an underhit back pass from Steven Gerrard and was tripped as he rounded James.

From the spot-kick, James dived left and the ball went right as Zidane notched his 25th international goal to spark off scenes of wild jubilation.

RIOTS

Police across England said yesterday they made a total of 83 arrests after football hooligans vented their anger at England's loss to France in their first match in the Euro 2004 competition. In Portugal, however, fans were reported well-behaved.

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