Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Belated Thoughts on England-France

As I mentioned in my post on Euro 2004, I did go ahead and spring for the England-France match on pay-per-view. I was hoping for something memorable, and I got it, though not quite in the way I wanted.

England took a 1-0 lead into the 90th minute, yet wound up losing 2-1. This is not the first time that such a thing has happened, as any Bayern Munich fan can attest. However, I have never seen it happen in quite so shocking a fashion. Even though its been a couple days now, I feel compelled to offer my thoughts.

Going into that 90th minute, I felt like I was watching a near replay of England-Argentina from World Cup 2002: England getting a goal off of a dead ball situation and then doing just enough to make it stand up. Even though France carried the majority of the play, they didn't really look like scoring. Unfortunately, the simple truth is that England gave this game away with several inexcusable blunders:

-I don't want to criticize Wayne Rooney, because he did have a fairly strong game. He made a great run to set up the penalty kick. However, if he only lays that ball off to a wide open Darius Vassell, it's 2-0 and doesn't come down to the penalty.

-David Beckham is absolutely to blame for not converting the penalty. Yes, he struck the ball well, and yes, Barthez made a great save. He made the save, however, because Beckham put the ball where he could get to it if he guessed right. Compare it to Zidane's penalty, which was placed perfectly in the corner. Even if David James had guessed right, he would never have reached it. A player of Beckham's class, in that situation, has to take that penalty with absolute conviction, and give the goalkeeper no chance.

-The foul by Emile Heskey that led to the tying goal was idiotic and inexcusable.

-Finally, what was Steven Gerrard thinking? Thierry Henry couldn't have asked for a better ball. That's the kind of howler I expect to see in the Fuller Park rec league.

You do have to give France credit, especially Zidane, for taking full advantage of their opportunities. Both the free kick and the penalty were brilliantly taken. Still, England have only themselves to blame for not coming away with the win.


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