A raucous atmosphere of Franco-Hispanic rivalry ensured that one of the more eagerly anticipated of the opening-phase encounters fulfilled its promise as an occasion, though not, alas, as a match. The quality was surprisingly lacking at times, and on their present form you would not confidently back either team to go on to lift the ultimate prize.
For the moment, both teams' minds will be focused on this Tuesday, when France and Bulgaria, each with four points, meet at St James' Park, and Spain, with two points, take on already eliminated Romania at Elland Road.
There are numerous permutations. France and Bulgaria know that a win would give them a place in the quarter- finals, while a draw might be enough. Then again they could lose and still go through if Spain were to lose or draw. Spain will be aiming to win, while hoping that there is a positive result in the other match. But such is the complexity of it all that even if France and Bulgaria draw they could still qualify.
While Spain's feeling will be mainly one of relief at still being in with a moderate chance, France must overcome the disappointment of knowing that they blew it when they were within six minutes of making sure of a place in the last eight. In their 1-0 win over Romania, they had got away with not killing off the opposition; Spain's resolve meant that they were not to be similarly indulged again.
To some extent, France were guilty of the same sin of omission as Italy had been against the Czech Republic on Friday night. Just as Arrigo Sacchi saw fit to start without Pier Luigi Casiraghi, his match-winner against Russia, so Aime Jacquet, the French coach, sent a team out for their second match minus the man who had won them their first, Christophe Dugarry. His replacement, Patrice Loko, flitted in and out of the game as the Spaniards, showing four changes to France's three, made their speed to the ball and strength in the tackle count.
The cool passing patterns that define the French at their best were slow to materialise as a series of grappling individual encounters made for a disjointed opening. Typical was the moment when Spain were convinced they had a penalty after Jose Luis Caminero stumbled under the challenge of Laurent Blanc. But the Belarussian referee rightly waved play on.
With Zinedine Zidane angling and timing passes cleverly and Christian Karembeu making the occasional burst up the right, the French were shading it and produced the best moment of the first half when, in the 25th minute, Zidane laid the ball back for Vincent Guerin, who struck a fierce shot from 25 yards which Zubizarreta did extremely well to turn away after it had bounced horribly in front of him.
Little had been seen of Youri Djorkaeff on the ground where the ghost of Eric Cantona roamed long before the Paris St-Germain striker was preferred to him to play in these championships. But in the 48th minute, he executed a finish of casual artistry to put the French side in front. Karembeu created the chance with a lofted pass that took out the entire Spanish defence and Djorkaeff deceived Zubizarreta with an early shot hit off the outside of his right boot.
The introduction of an extra atacker in Kiko brought renewed vigour to Spain, though it was still hard to see how they could get back into the match, and France would have put it beyond them but for an under-hit pass by Djorkaeff to Loko. But in the 85th minute, France were caught out at the far post by a cross from Kiko and Jose Caminero swept a shot past Bernard Lama.
France (4-3-2-1): Lama (Paris St-Germain); Angloma (Internazionale) , Blanc (Barcelona), Desailly (Milan), Lizarazu (Bordeaux); Karembeu (Sampdoria), Deschamps (Juventus), Guerin (Paris St-Germain); Djorkaeff (Internazionale), Zidane (Bordeaux); Loko (Paris St-Germain). Substitutes: Roche (Paris St-Germain) for Angloma, 65; Dugarry (Milan) for Loko, 74; Thuram (Parma) for Guerin, 81.Booked: Blanc, Karembeu, Djorkaeff.
Spain (4-1-3-2): Zubizarreta (Valencia); Otero (Valencia), Alkorta (Real Madrid), Abelardo (Barcelona), Sergi (Barcelona); Hierro (Real Madrid); Caminero (Atletico Madrid), Amavisca (Real Madrid), Lopez (Atletico Madrid); Luis Enrique (Barcelona), Alfonso (Real Betis).Substitutes: Manjarin (Deportivo La Coruna) for Luis Enrique, 55; Kiko (Atletico Madrid) for Otero, 59; Salinas (Gijon) for Alfonso, 83. Booked: Luis Enrique, Amavisca, Otero.
Referee: V Zhuk (Belarus).Reuse content