France will now face Group A surprise package Greece for a place in the semi
final. However, they were matched by there Swiss neighbours for 75 minutes
and only a late double from Arsenal's Theirry Henry gave Les Blues safe
passage to the knock out stages.
Bixente Lizarazu returned to the French starting line up at the expense of
Marcel Desailly, who had come in for some severe criticism from the French
press. Mikeal Silvestre kept his place in the first 11 despite conceding
two penalties in the previous two matches. This meant that Gers fans would
have to wait a little longer to get a look at new signing Jean Alain
France also recalled Claude Makalele and Robert Pires at the expense of
Olivier Dacourt and Sylvain Wiltord. Willy Sagnol came in at right back at
the expense of William Gallas.
Switzerland knew that anything less than victory would send them home and
they were missing the suspended duo of Bernt Haas who was sent of against
England, and Alexander Frei who received a ban after being found guilty of
spitting at Steven Gerrard in their last group match. This meant that PSV
Eindhoven's Johan Vonlanthan would start up front for the Swiss. However,
there was no place for veteran striker Stephane Chapuisat who will now bring
the curtain down on a 15-year international career.
After a couple of below par performances, the defending champions were eager
to stamp their authority on this first competitive meeting of these two
sides. They showed their intent within three minutes when both David
Trezeguet and Zinedine Zidane found space in the right hand side of the
Swiss box but neither could capitalise on their opportunities.
France were making some headway down the left hand side against Liverpool
stopper Stephan Henchoz, who was playing in an unfamiliar role at right
back. However it was the Swiss who came closest to breaking the deadlock in
the opening exchanges when Hakin Yakin fired in a 25-yard free kick that
Barthez did well to divert over the bar in the ninth minute.
But in the 19th minute France opened the scoring and it was that man Zizou
who fired them in front. He got to Pires' corner before Jorg Stiel in the
Swiss goal to nod home his fifth European Championship goal. Despite this
being his first from open play, Zidane is only four goals behind the record
of nine, which was set by his countryman, Michel Platini, in 1984.
It looked at this point that France would take a strangle hold on the game
and Theirry Henry passed up a great opportunity in the 25th minute but
headed Sagnol's cross over from six yards.
Henry had looked a pale imitation of the player who took the Premiership by
storm so far in Euro 2004 and he was made to rue that miss when Switzerland
scored a superb equaliser only a minute later.
It was another Premiership star who was left with their head in their hands
as Mikeal Silvestre again questioned Jacques Santini's faith in him with a
slack pass from defence that was snapped up by Cabanas and his weighted ball
was slipped home by Vonlanthan. In scoring Vonlanthan became the youngest
scorer in European Championship history, breaking Wayne Rooney's record
which was set in the same stadium four days ago.
The young striker was causing France all manner of problems with his pace
and the Swiss were getting some joy behind the French centre halves.
Indeed, all over the park Switzerland were more than holding their own as
France struggled to gain control of the game. However, it was the
pre-tournament favourites who created the best chance to go in at half time
in front. Only a minute before the break Zidane found space on the left
wing but his superb cross was headed wide by Henry who again showed that for
all his undoubted skill, he struggles in the air.
At half time Jacques Santini brought on William Gallas for Willy Sagnol but
the French still struggled to get into their rhythm. Up front, Trezeguet
failed to control a cross from Lizarazu and in the midfield Patrick Veira
Henry was booked for diving a minute into the half and Switzerland's Wicky
joined him after 65 minutes. Huggel, who had come on for Hakin Yakin was
also booked for a foul on Pires.
In the 75th minute, Louis Saha was thrown into the action for the
ineffectual David Trezeguet and the Man United man had an immediate impact
in France's second goal.
He headed on Lizarazu's free kick and Henry killed the ball brilliantly
before poking it past the outstretched arms of Jorg Steil and into the net.
Henry then made it a hat trick of missed-headed chances when Stiel held his
weak attempt in the 83rd minute.
But the Arsenal star killed the game a minute later when he collected the
ball on the right wing before cutting inside past Murat Yakin and firing a
low shot into the net at Stiel's near post.
It was a real blow for a Swiss side who a battled hard but in the end, the
undoubted individual class that the French posses saw them safely through
and the victory means they have avoided a clash with host nation Portugal in
the Quarter Finals. However, if Jacques Santini is to go to Tottenham as a
European Champion, his side will have to be a lot sharper than they were
tonight and the Greek players will certainly not fear them when the two
sides meet in the next round.
Switzerland have now lost five out of six European Championship games but
they did avoid becoming only the second side to go through the competition
without scoring a goal.
Ranger's fans also got their first glimpse of Jean Alain Boumsong as Santini
put him on a minute into stoppage time.
SWITZERLAND: Stiel, Spycher, M. Yakin, Henchoz (Magnin), Muller, Cabanas,
Celestini, H. Yakin (Huggel), Wicky, Gygax (Rama), Vonlanthen.
FRANCE: Barthez, Sagnol (Gallas, Boumsong), Thuram, Silvestre, Lizarazu,
Pires, Viera, Makelele, Zidane, Henry, Trezeguet (Saha)