France came from behind to secure a draw against a plucky Croatia team, who pushed the holders to the limit.
There was little sign of the drama to come when France went ahead midway through the first half through an own goal by Igor Tudor, but two second half goals in the space of four minutes from Croatia turned the gameon its head and France were grateful to David Trezeguet for a share of the points.
The early stages were dominated by France with Croatia chasing shadows for the most part. Their ball retention was exceptional with Zidane and Henry in particular outstanding.
The opening goal came on 22 minutes Zidane took a free-kick wide on the left and curled the ball across the face of the goal where it received the faintest deflection from Tudor before looping into the net.
From that point on, France toyed with the opposition, stroking the ball about with ease and it semeed only a matter of time before they extended their advantage.
However, despite their overwhelming dominance, France did not look create a clear cut chance until late in the half. Henry’s corner-kick was audaciously flicked on at the near post by Zidane and Gallas arrived at the far post but sent his header wide of the target.
After the break, Croatia, were unrecognisable and within two minutes had drawn level. Silvestre who conceded a penalty against England, repeated the feat by bringing down Rosso with a clumsy challenge. Rapaic made no mistake from the spot.
Remarkably, given the earlier run of play, The Croats were ahead within four minutes. Prso, who held the ball up well in trying circumstances throughout, outwitted Silvestre and Desailly before hammering the ball past Barthez.
The French were shell-shocked and convened for a team huddle before the restart. Midway through the half they were back on level terms, when an underhit backpass left the keeper stranded and his clearance rebounded onto Trezeguet who calmly rolled the ball into the empty net.
The game became much more open after that with both teams enjoying chances to win the match. Henry and Pires were both denied but the best chance fell to Croatian substitute Mornar who skied his effort over the bar from just four yards after excellent work from Olic on the left.
In the end a draw was a fair result. France may have learned a valuable lesson: good though they are, they cannot take their foot off the pedal in future matches.
For Croatia, the result, but perhaps more importantly their performance, will give them great encouragement for their final group match against England. They require a win in that game to go through and on this form, few people would deny that they are capable of pulling off a result.
France 2-2 Croatia
– France – Igor Tudor 22og, David Trezeguet 64
– Croatia– Milan Rapaic 48pen, Dado Prso 52
France:16-Fabien Barthez; 5-William Gallas (19-Willy Sagnol 81), 15-Lilian Thuram, 8-Marcel Desailly, 13-Michael Silvestre; 4-Patrick Vieira, 17-Olivier Dacourt (18-Benoit Pedretti 79), 11-Sylvain Wiltord (7-Robert Pires 70), 10-Zinedine Zidane; 12-Thierry Henry, 20-David Trezeguet.
Croatia:12-Tomislav Butina; 13-Dario Simic, 21-Robert Kovac, 3-Josip Simunic, 22-Nenad Bjelica (15-Jerko Leko 68); 20-Giovanni Rosso, 5-Igor Tudor, 10-Niko Kovac, 7-Milan Rapaic (19-Ivica Mornar 87); 9-Dado Prso, 11-Tomislav Sokota (18-Ivica Olic 73).
Referee: Kim Milton Nielsen (Denmark)