Two goals in injury time from Zinedine Zidane gave France victory over England in a pulsating Group B encounter in Lisbon.
England led for much of the game through Frank Lampard and had a wonderful opportunity to double their lead when they were awarded a penalty midway through the second half, but David Beckham’s effort was saved by Fabian Barthez. France left it late, scoring first on 91 minutes from a Zidane free-kick and then the Real Madrid playmaker converted a penalty after David James hauled down Thierry Henry.
France deserved their victory, dominating possession in the second half as England began to flag after a bright opening. But the result was harsh on England who until Zidane’s later interventions, probably thought they had done enough to have won the game.
The early exchanges were tentative with neither side prepared to over-commit players to attack. While England were neat and compact, France, who enjoyed the bulk of possession, looked to Zidane to pull the strings from midfield.
The first opening fell to England but Gallas snuffed out the threat posed by Michael Owen after a quick exchange of passes involving Scholes and Rooney.
France came close to opening the scoring on 15 minutes when Vieira found Trezeguet but the Juventus striker headed narrowly over.
As the half progressed, the game remained open although neither side were able to forge any clear cut chances.
The goal when it arrived, came from a predictable source. On 38 minutes, Beckham, who had been relatively anonymous until that point, was impeded by Lizarazu. From the resulting free-kick, the Real Madrid man found Lampard who headed firmly past the stationary Barthez.
The goal seemed to galvanise England, and with the 18-year-old Rooney belying his tender years to show some neat touches, Eriksson’s men began to take the game to France.
France, for all their star quality looked happy to hear the half-time whistle. In contrast, the England players left the pitch with a spring in their step.
As the second half began it was clear that France were determined to take the game to England. Henry, who was quiet in the first half, shot straight at James and then produced one of his trademark bursts down the left to force another save from the England keeper.
With Vieira bossing the midfield, England’s defending became increasingly desperate and the match was played almost exclusively in England’s half.
However, despite the incessant pressure, it was England who should have scored the next goal. On 73 minutes, the impressive Rooney burst through from the halfway line and his run took him into the French box where Silvestre’s clumsy challenge brought a penalty. Beckham stepped forward to take the spot-kick but his effort was athletically saved by Barthez. It was a miss England were to later rue.
With the game entering stoppage time, the industrious Vieira made one final burst forward only to be brought down by the substitute Heskey on the edge of the England penalty area. Up stepped Zidane to slot the free kick into the corner of the net.
France were not finished. A poor backpass by Steven Gerrard exposed David James and the keeper’s rash challenge on Henry gave the referee no option but to award a penalty. Cool as you like, Zidane converted and France, who must have feared a repeat of their dreadful World Cup campaign in Korea, were up and running at Euro 2004.
France 2-1 England
– France – Zinedine Zidane 90+1, 90+3pen
– England – Frank Lampard 38
– Missed penalty: David Beckham (England) 73
France: 16-Fabien Barthez; 15-Lilian Thuram, 5-William Gallas, 13-Mikael Silvestre (19-Willy Sagnol 79), 3-Bixente Lizarazu; 7-Robert Pires (11-Sylvain Wiltord 76), 4-Patrick Vieira, 6-Claude Makelele, 10-Zinedine Zidane; 12-Thierry Henry, 20-David Trezeguet.
England: 1-David James; 2-Gary Neville, 15-Ledley King, 6-Sol Campbell, 3-Ashley Cole; 7-David Beckham, 11-Frank Lampard, 4-Steven Gerrard, 8-Paul Scholes (18-Owen Hargreaves 76); 9-Wayne Rooney (21-Emile Heskey 76), 10-Michael Owen (23-Darius Vassell 69)
Referee: Markus Merk (Germany)