France retained their FIFA Confederations Cup title after a narrow victory over Cameroon on Sunday 29 June at the Stade de France in Saint-Denis. Both sides had their chances, but the Bleus finally clinched the match in extra-time, as Golden Shoe (four goals) and Golden Ball winner Thierry Henry found the net. In a touching tribute at the end of the game, both sides gathered in the centre circle around a photo of Marc-Vivien Foé.
FIFA Confederations Cup official awards
Emotions were running high before the game too, as the two sides formed a circle, arm in arm, in the centre of the field to observe a minute’s silence and listen to the national anthems. The game kicked off in a subdued atmosphere and took a long while to get going. Thierry Henry was the first to get a shot on target, but Idris Kameni saved smartly (17’). That effort seemed to give the Bleus the impetus they needed, and Henry was again at the origin of the next dangerous move. He found space on the left, lifted the ball over the head of Jean-Joël Perrier-Doumbé and crossed with the outside of his right boot. Djibril Cissé darted in and angled a header just wide of Kameni’s left post (23’). The match was up and running.
The Indomitable Lions hit straight back. Thimotée Atouba broke on the left, cut into the box and crossed to the near post where Mohammadou Idrissou was on hand. Olivier Dacourt got his foot in and the ball came out to Eric Djemba Djemba, whose shot was blocked (24’). Then it was the turn of the Bleus as Cissé sprinted clear down the left flank, and centred for Henry. The Gunner swivelled and shot but Kameni was equal to the effort (25’).
Winnie Schaefer’s boys now began to dictate matters. Pius Ndiefi stretched to hit a delicate half-volley that had Fabien Barthez leaping to save (36’). The French appeared the happier of the two sides to hear the half-time whistle and came out after the break looking refreshed. Ludovic Giuly burst through into the box and crossed to the front post where Cissé stole the ball from Kameni’s grasp. The Auxerre man pulled the ball back for Henry, who hit a first time shot just wide (57’).
As in the first half, Cameroon then took the upper hand as Atouba skipped past Giuly and whipped a great ball to the back post, where Samuel Etoo was waiting. The Real Mallorca striker, who scored two goals last night in the Spanish Cup Final, missed out this time (69’). Modeste Mbami then sent in a curler that Fabien Barthez was forced to tip over (70’). Both sides then sat back for a while, though Giuly nearly scored with a volley that flashed wide (78’).
Extra time was needed to separate the sides. And France were to settle the game and retain their trophy with a goal out of nowhere. Lilian Thuram pumped the ball into the box and Henry swivelled to deviate the ball into the net with his knee. Kameni was beaten and Henry had scored his 22nd international goal (0 : 1, 97’) The celebrations that followed were fittingly sober as the players from both sides once again came together to thank the crowd.