World and European champions Spain will host France in their next World Cup 2014 Qualifier. This is their second meeting this year after Spain defeated France in the Euro Cup quarter-final in June. Ahead of today’s high profile clash between these two sides, we look back at a match from World Cup 2006, when France eliminated Spain in the round-of-16.
During the 2006 World Cup France struggled during the group stages and just about managed to qualify (as the group G runner-up) as South Korea lost their final match against eventual group winner Switzerland. But for Spain, the group stages were a walk in the park. Spain qualified into the round-of-16 as the winners from group H, having won all their three matches handsomely. This meant Spain will go on to meet France during the round-of-16.
Both the teams came into the match, to be held at Hanover, in contrasting forms. Spain had scored eight goals during the Group stages, while France managed only three. Spain had a side made up of some emerging talents (who would eventually go on to dominate world football), while France were a team made up of great footballers for whom that world cup was the swan song. It was a clash between two different generations.
Spain took the early lead (27th minute) in this match as David Villa scored from the spot after Lilian Thuram fouled Ibanez Pablo in the box. It seemed as if Spain were eager to put France out of their misery. But things turned around very quickly. Just before the half-time, Frank Ribery equalized after rounding of Iker Casillas and finding the back of the net ahead of two sliding Spanish defenders. It was Viera who found him with a delicate pass.
Zinedine Zidane came into life in the second half of the match and France were a suddenly a different side on the pitch. Zidane found Malouda with an excellent pass in the 52nd minute of the match, but Iker Casillas made a fantastic save. Spain brought on Joaquin and Luis Garcia in the second half and it almost paid off as both the substitutes came close to scoring. Then in the 83rd minute Zidane floated in a wonderful free-kick from the right, which Spain failed to clear in the first attempt, and Patrick Viera headed it in to give France the lead. As Spain went for broke in the final few minutes of the match, France not only managed to hold them off, but in the 92nd minute of the match they managed to double the lead. It was Zinedine Zidane once again. The midfield maestro collected the ball on the left, skipped past Puyol as if he didn’t exist and wrong footed Casillas as he fired in a low shot in the right hand bottom corner of the net. It was all over. France progressed into the next round where they faced Brazil, while Spain, once again, failed at the big stage.
Zinedine Zidane and Patrick Viera put up a wonderful display in the midfield. This was the match when Zidane finally came to life in this tournament and as they say, the rest is history. The legend would almost single-handedly carry his nation to the final. It was a tournament where he reminded the world of his class once again.
For Spain, this (their first defeat under Aragones in 25 games since he took charge after Euro 2004) was a new beginning. They would go on to dominate World football after this. This loss in the round-of-16 was their last defeat in a knock-out match.