THE DAY REPLAYED – The FIFA Confederations Cup France 2003 was the stage for some fantastic football on Friday 20 June, with the fans in Lyon and Saint-Etienne being treated to seven goals – four of which were absolute crackers. De Gregorio (NZL), Yepes (COL), Nakamura (JPN) and Govou (FRA) each found their own delightfully original ways of putting a football into the back of a net. The day ends with two sides sure of their immediate destiny; France are guaranteed a place in the semis but are yet to perform with any great panache; New Zealand are out and have still to play to their true potential.
The 27th minute of the Colombia - New Zealand match in Lyon will live long in the memory: Kiwi midfielder Raf De Gregorio rushed to a dropping ball on the edge of the Colombian box, swung his left foot and missed it completely. Undeterred, and no doubt less surprised than everyone around him, De Gregorio ploughed on and took a pot shot with his right. Bingo! Bemused Colombian keeper Oscar Cordoba could only stand and watch as the ball sailed into the corner. De Gregorio’s delight was as eloquent as the bewildered look on the Colombian defenders’ faces.
Colombia had not scored an international goal since 12 May 2002, but against the flagging Antipodeans the South Americans at last broke their drought. “Against France, and again today against New Zealand, Colombia only really got going in the second half”, summed up Moustafa Hani (TSG). Mario Yepes’ goal was another peach. The FC Nantes defender conjured a shooting chance out of nothing, flicking the ball up with his back to goal before swivelling and leaping athletically to hit a shoulder-high volley past a flabbergasted Mike Utting between the New Zealand posts.
New Zealand now go into their last game against Japan knowing they now have no chance of qualifying for the semis. Sadly for the Kiwis they also picked up the first red card of the tournament (Chris Killen, 68’). Hosts France got the second when Willy Sagnol received his marching orders at the death in Saint-Etienne (90’). Like his team-mates, the Bayern star was hard pressed to contain a highly enterprising Nippon team.
Zico’s charges often had French defenders chasing shadows. Playmaker Shunsuke Nakamura is top scorer in the tournament with three goals in two games so far: he left returning first-choice French keeper Fabien Barthez for dead with his delightful free-kick goal in the 59th minute. That strike was an historic one in that it heralded the first ever goal scored by an Asian side against France in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Above all though, it left one wondering how far Japan might have gone last summer had they had Nakamura in their ranks, and how far they might yet go with this hugely talented new generation.
The seventh and last goal of the day was yet another corker. Rising French star Sidney Govou (23) showed bags of composure and natural finishing ability to steal in between four defenders and slam the ball home past Seigo Narazaki. Now that – along with the rest of the day’s entertainment - was definitely worth watching!