Euro `96: Clemente short of firepower
Monday 17 June 1996
At the end of this match, it was difficult to decide whose reputation is suffering more in this tournament: Spain, who are looking thoroughly ordinary when much more had been anticipated, or Mick Hucknall whose "We're In This Together" is sounding more dirge-like with every hearing.
On balance, you had to come down on the side of Spain, who have every chance of not making the quarter-finals, while it seems Hucknall is going to haunt us all the way to Wembley on 30 June. Being spared an extra 12 days of the Simply Red singer might be the only consolation Javier Clemente's team can cling to on Tuesday night.
Unbeaten for 18 matches, Spain, like Portugal, are proving to be a powder- puff team with some skill but little or no threat up front. Maybe it is the water in the Iberian Peninsula, but strikers seem non-existent. Robbie Fowler and Les Ferdinand would walk into either side. Stan Collymore, too.
The upshot of this soporific Group B match is that Spain have to beat Romania on Tuesday to have any chance of qualifying for the last eight. As they have barely had half a dozen shots on target in the tournament so far, and as their opponents are nursing a grievance after being eliminated in unjust circumstances and might feel like taking it out on the first team they come across, that is not a simple task.
Their problems would have been worse, however, if Jose Luis Caminero had not snatched an equaliser five minutes from the end when the Spanish supporters were already leaving Elland Road in sad resignation. Even the goal had an element of luck as the Atletico Madrid player's shot brushed a French defender, who deflected it just out of reach of Bernard Lama's dive.
It was a severely frustrating conclusion for the French, who had appeared to have ensured their place in the quarter-finals and now face the Bulgarians at St James' Park knowing a draw might not be enough. Then again, it is difficult to feel too much sympathy for a team whose inclination is to score a goal and then sit on it.
A side with the talents of Youri Djorkaeff, Zinedine Zidane and Christian Karembeu at its disposal has no need to adopt a negative approach but, although it worked against Romania, the tactic backfired against the Spanish. Marcel Desailly was pushed forward to put the bolt across midfield and as a result the defence lost its most solid brick. When Julio Salinas was introduced with eight minutes remaining, there was not enough muscle to repel the veteran striker's bulk.
So instead of a victory that Djorkaeff's goal - a lovely shot with the outside of his right foot from Karembeu's pass - appeared to have secured they got a draw instead, although Christophe Dugarry almost sealed the win with a header that grazed a post five minutes before Spain's equaliser.
The French have acquired a habit of blowing things in recent years and they could do it again if their non-qualification for the World Cup in 1994 comes into account, as it might do if they, Spain and Bulgaria finish level on points. The Spanish are deeper in the mire but the words "We're in this together" might just have an altogether different meaning for the French come Tuesday night.
Goals: Djorkaeff (47) 1-0; Caminero (85) 1-1.
FRANCE (4-4-1-1): Lama (Paris St-Germain); Angloma (Internazionale), Blanc (Barcelona), Desailly (Milan), Lizarazu (Bourdeaux); Karembeu (Sampdoria), Deschamps (Juventus), Zidane (Bourdeaux), Guerin (Paris St-Germain); Djorkaeff (Internazionale); Loko (Paris St Germain). Substitutes: Roche (Paris St- Germain) for Angloma, 64; Dugarry (Milan) for Loko, 73; Thuram (Parma) for Guerin, 80.
SPAIN (4-4-1-1): Zubizarreta (Valencia); Otero (Valencia), Lopez (Atletico Madrid), Abelardo (Barcelona), Sergi (Barcelona); Luis Enrique (Barcelona), Alkorta (Real Madrid), Hierro (Real Madrid), Amavisca (Real Madrid); Caminero (Atletico Madrid); Alfonso (Real Betis). Substitutes: Manjarin (Deportivo La Coruna) for Luis Enrique, 54; Kiko (Atletico Madrid) for Otero, 58; Salinas (Sporting Gijon) for Alfonso, 82.
Bookings: France: Blanc, Djorkaeff, Karembeu; Spain: Amavisca, Otero, Luis Enrique.
Referee: V Zhuk (Belarus).
Man of the match: Deschamps. Attendance: 35,626.
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