Football: Dugarry loses out in a tale of two friends

Zidane will be banned but his former clubmate faces a longer absence from the French side
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The Independent Online
THIS WAS a tale of two friends: the first Zinedine Zidane, the man on whom the hopes and pride of the home nation chiefly rest; the second, Christophe Dugarry, the man the French public and media love to hate.

Zidane got the loudest cheer from the French fans when the teams were announced before the kick-off; Dugarry's name was booed, even though he had scored the first goal of France's World Cup campaign last week (the only other boos were for the coach, Aime Jacquet). Neither made it to the end of the game as Dugarry departed on a stretcher and Zidane was shown a red card.

In the fifth minute Zidane (who had already had two shots charged down) burst through the middle and stabbed the ball into Dugarry's path. Dugarry, whose shiny, black hairband made him look as if he was wearing a Walkman, muffed his shot. There were groans around the Stade de France; and then weak chants of "Du-garry" from a few obstinately fair-minded French fans.

In the 18th minute Thierry Henry reached the byline and turned towards goal. Dugarry was standing in the penalty area unmarked. Henry tried a difficult shot which flew wide. Dugarry turned away in frustration.

It was his last chance. In the 30th minute Dugarry stretched for a looping through ball and collapsed in agony beside the goal. He had pulled a hamstring in his right thigh. As the striker lay surrounded by anxious French officials, Zidane missed an open goal, stabbing wide with only Mohammed Al-Daye to beat.

Dugarry was stretchered away, his thigh heavily bandaged, his game - possibly his World Cup and, conceivably, his international career - over. On to the field - to deafening cheers which Dugarry must have heard through his pain - came his great rival, the 20-year-old David Trezeguet of Monaco.

Five minutes later Zidane's clever flick to Bixente Lizarazu made a simple goal for Henry. Zidane went on to give a display - a "festival" the French call it - of his repertoire of dribbles, flicks, curling passes and fierce shooting.

Zizu and Christophe have been best friends since 1991, when they were 19-year-old prodigies in the first team at Bordeaux: the one a son of Algerian immigrants, the other a home-grown product of the rugby-crazy south-west.

In 1994 they made it into the French team almost together. Dugarry, a tall elbows-and- knees centre-forward of the old English style, was then regarded as the better prospect. He won his first cap just ahead of Zizu. In the 1995-96 close season the pals moved to Italy, their footballing and financial fortunes seemingly guaranteed. Zidane went on to become the heart and brain of the great Juventus team. At 25 (26 next Tuesday), he is one of the most exciting midfield players in the world.

In Serie A and then the Spanish Liga Dugarry's goalscoring touch deserted him. He was a one-season reject at Milan, a failure at Barcelona. He is now, at 26, trying to rebuild his career in Marseilles.

In the second half Trezeguet went on to miss several chances, before nodding in a ball dropped obligingly on to his head by the Saudi keeper Mohammed Al-Daye. How Dugarry would have loved that chance.

In the 75th minute, out of a contented French-blue sky came sensation and fury in the Stade de France. Zidane the hero, Zidane the man of skill and intelligence, stamped stupidly, pointlessly, on Fuad Amin.

A red card - which will be followed by a one or two-match suspension - took Zidane off the pitch to join his injured pal in the dressing-room and possibly out of France's crucial first game in the knock-out rounds.