France, Ireland, Switzerland and Israel are slugging it out for qualification from Group Four and as the final rounds approach all the contenders are coming off the ropes. Israel strengthened their hopes with an impressive 1-1 draw yesterday away to Switzerland, whose home game against the French next month could prove decisive.
France, however, know that victory in their last three games (their final fixture is at home to Cyprus) would guarantee a passage to Germany next summer. Buoyed, moreover, by the return of Zidane and his fellow anciens combatants, Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele, the French are riding a wave of optimism, particularly after the old guard inspired a flowing 3-0 win in a friendly over the Ivory Coast last month.
The Faroes have made considerable progress in recent times and now have nine full-time professionals - an impressive total considering the population is only 3,000 more than the 45,000 capacity of the Stade Félix Bollaert here - but at times the French exposed gaps in their defence the width of the North Sea.
Patrick Vieira and Makelele provided a constant flow of possession for Zidane to let loose the pace of Djibril Cissé and Thierry Henry, who with better close control might have had a hat-trick.
Cissé made the breakthrough after 13 minutes, heading home Florent Malouda's cross from 10 yards. Six minutes later France scored again, Cissé's cross from the right taking a cruel deflection off the boot of Suni Olsen.
The Faroes, playing five across the midfield, rarely found their way put of their own half and threatened only once before the interval, Coventry City's Claus Bech Jorgensen forcing Grégory Coupet to push his header round a post.
After the restart Zidane delighted the crowd with a classic shimmy on the right before picking out Henry with a cross, but after 58 minutes the France captain was replaced by Vikash Dhorasoo. The chants of "Zizou" that rang around the ground showed how much he means to the country.
Henry looked far from happy when he was replaced by Sylvain Wiltord just after the hour. Although he had failed to find the net, the Arsenal striker had featured in several sweeping moves at the start of the second half.
Some spark went out of France's play after Zidane's departure but after 76 minutes Wiltord crossed from the right and Cissé smashed the ball into the roof of the net to put the result beyond all doubt.Reuse content