Once again Les Bleus come out with a masterful performance and move on to the semi finals. What can you say about this game....
The first 10 minutes looked like a Brazilian team that was motivated by all the pundits claiming they had not put it all together yet but they remained the favorites. Ronaldinho looked full of energy and seemed to want to prove that he was the greatest individual player in the world. Even the old gaurd: Ronaldo, Cafu, Carlos looked energized. But as the game progressed France began to assert their will on the game. Zidane appeared to have rolled the years back and showed a touch on the ball otherwise not seen for a few years. Makelele and Vieira once again destroyed any real creativity in the Brazilian midfield. As the first half worn on, it was apparent that Les Bleus were controlling the flow. All they needed was a goal to reward their efforts.
As the second half started I was nervous that France might get frustrated and allow Brazil more space, but I was rewarded by watching the French continue to press, continue to work the midfield, continue to control play. The 57th minute strike by Henry was masterful. It was also clear that Ribery, Zidane and Henry were giving the aged backs Cafu and Carlos all they could handle.
France was the logical team to advance, as Brazil never got it into gear this tournament. Ronaldo scored 3 goals but against inferiour opponentes, Ronaldinho looked nothing like the Barca star, Adriano was invisible, and the defense looked old and suspect. The best Brazilian might have been their keeper Dida, who made an amazing save against Ghana to preserve a 1-0 lead and then a great intervention against Ribery to preserve the slight hope for the world champions.
- Henry and Ribery are clicking, this is scarey for France's future opponents. They both have worlds of pace and can beat any defense individually. The turn Ribery had against Cafu on the end line was clinical, he made Cafu look like an amateur (or an old man).
- I need to apologize to the master - Zidane. The last two games he has been masterful, seeming to get stronger as the competition continues. He is even beating defenses off the dribble, masterfully distributing, even back tracking for big tackles. The farewell tour continues. I will admit to having doubt his value to this team, but he is proving me wrong, shame on me.
- Brazil got caught up in their own hype. They insisted on playing the old guard - Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Ronaldo etc. They brought in the dangerous Cicinho late in the game for Cafu, I think that Cicinho should have been playing more, teams fear his pace and crossing ability much more than Cafu's veteran experience. I never got the sense that Brazil had a sense of urgencey in any of their games this tournament. I blame that on the coaches. While many of the talking heads kept saying "Brazil will turn it up a notch, they have too many gears, too much talent" The team on the field never did. Maybe it is a case of reaching the 3 last finals, winning 2 of them, that gave this team a sense of entitlement. Shame on them.
Now we need into an all European 1/2 finals....I am too emotionally spent right now for any further thoughts! ALLEZ LES BLEUS!!!!