France 1 - Australia 0

Well those Socceroos have done it again, having played well they manage to lose on a lapse in their second Kirin Cup match against France. This was the first meeting between these two countries and Robbie Slater was there eager to do well against the country in which he plays his club football (though rumours are he won't for much longer). However he did not play as well as he had hoped.

Before I go any further I'd just like to reiterate that I did not see the game, thanks to some poor broadcasting decisions and I am basingthis report on second hand sources.

For a start it was wet in Kobe, real wet. Monsoon wet. The kind of wet that West Germany played their 1974 World Cup semi final in. Infact this was a pity since it meant that both teams only real oppertunity to attack came from the long ball. Some might say that this helped Australia more than France, but in the end no-one will know for sure unless we can figure out this parallel universe stuff.

Statistics tell us that both sides had 11 scoring chances, but the game is decided on goals and France got the only one of the game. A long ball went towards Cantona in the box and although he was marked managed to get his head to the ball and sent a looping header over Zeljko Kalac who was off his line. Despite some hurried backpedalling, which actually gave him a touch on the ball, Kalac could only brush the ball with his fingertips and the ball deflected off the inside of his right post and made Eric a right happy lad in about the 42nd minute.

For Australia Ned Zelic (bless him, he's such a good player) and Aurelio Vidmar both had some chances to score but found Fabien Barthez in superlative form in the French goal. However apart from the Aussie keepers somewhat inexperienced error which, sadly, led to the French winner Zeljko played very well. Infact so well that when Tony Vidmar conceded a penalty when tackling the initails JPP Zeljko saved it.

This incident occurred in the 28th minute and Jean-Pierre Papin took the penalty himself and opted for a firm shot to Kalac's right. Kalac went the right way and blocked it and the ball was cleared for a corner by an Aussie defender. I admit I actually saw snippets on the news of the French goal and the penalty save. The Socceroos were pretty excited and slapped Kalac about in praise, they were pretty 'pumped'. While I'm here I might as well add that I am a fan of Zeljko. He was incredibly humble when he won this years Goalkeeper of the year award in the end of year honours, he struck me as being very ... Australian.

From all accounts the Aussies did their best in the last 25 minutes to push forward looking for the equaliser, but failed. However it makes a nice change from the Aussies attempts to push forward and be caught out at the back, so vividly demonstrated against Poland in the 1992 Olympics.

Sadly this means Australia, who were late replacements for Argentina, will not win the cup and finish on one point from 2 games. France need only to draw against Japan to take out the tournament, but I'd like them to win by two goals so Australia doesn't finish last.

Now for some comments by Aussie coach Eddie Thomson.

"Considering the late notice our lads couldn't have done better" "If we can go against France and be the better team it will give us a lot of respect" [Winning might have helped here Eddie.] "He [Kalac] did ever so well. We just keep producing goalkeepers...In Mark Schwarzer and Zeljko Kalac we have got two great young goalkeepers. Zeljko has been another find." "Their goalkeeper [Barthez] just had one of those days. He stood between us and victory" "At the press conference everyone said [surely not everyone] we were the better team" "These results have set us up against South Africa. The extra couple of games will do us no harm"

Thomson said he will experiment in the games against South Africa "Stan Lazaridis, Steve Horvat and Mark Viduka will get a run and Paul Okon, if he is fit."

Go Socceroos!

written by Thomas Esamie