Football: France forge a capital alliance

Adam Szreter on the London-based players at the heart of the hosts' success
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The Independent Online
THERE WERE accusations of anti-English sentiments on the part of Aime Jacquet following his stubborn refusal to incorporate Eric Cantona and David Ginola, two of the Premiership's favourite Frenchmen, into his plans over the past few years, but yesterday was proof that it was strictly business and nothing personal.

In selecting Frank Leboeuf alongside Marcel Desailly, soon to be partners in the centre of the Chelsea defence, the France coach assured himself of a warm welcome next time he wanders down the King's Road, while Patrick Vieira's unexpected call-up to play with his Arsenal club-mate Emmanuel Petit in the French midfield means Jacquet should also be safe to roam the streets of Finsbury Park at night, should he so desire.

Even the French colours are designed to make Arsenal and Chelsea players feel at home, while just to add a little more spice to the proceedings for Chelsea fans there was also Brian Laudrup. But as befits the Double winners, it was Arsenal who took most of the the honours.

Jacquet's decision to announce the French team the day before the game had provided Vieira with a very special 22nd birthday present on Tuesday. Vieira was quickly into his considerable stride too, with a powerful shot after just five minutes.

But Vieira would not be Vieira without picking up a booking. He duly managed it amid a yellow card frenzy from the Italian referee, Pierluigi Collina, for whom the first-round amnesty seemed to serve as an excuse to book as many players as possible.

Petit was authoritative throughout, and it is becoming hard to imagine Jacquet leaving him out. His passing and ball-winning were exemplary, his goal was coolly taken and he departed to a roar of acclaim shortly thereafter.

Leboeuf was given a relatively comfortable ride by Laudrup, with one notable exception when the former Rangers striker left him for dead. Desailly did not put a foot wrong all afternoon and Gianluca Vialli, the Chelsea player-manager, will have been pleased with the performance of his new- look defence.