Foot: 20 years ago, “Blues” at the zenith won Euro 2000
Zinedine Zidane congratulates David Trezeguet after his golden goal against Italy which offers the victory to the team of France, in the final of the Euro, July 2, 2000 in Rotterdam. AFP / Patrick Hertzog
Text by: David Kalfa Follow
On July 2, 2000, the French football team won the European Nations Championship (Euro) for the second time in its history, after that of 1984. This coronation at Euro 2000, two years after the victory in 1998 World Cup was the peak of the “Blues” and French football.
The French football team that won Euro 2000 may not be the strongest national team of all time. But it is certainly a candidate for the title of best French team in the history of the "Blues". In front of that led by Michel Platini and which notably won Euro 1984, the first major trophy in French football. And before that of the recent 2018 world champions, trained by Didier Deschamps.
Because Zinedine Zidane and company are the only "Blues" to have successfully won the World Cup (1998) - Euro (2000). But also because they displayed during this European Championship of Nations co-organized by Belgium and the Netherlands a fullness and strength rarely seen.
Roger Lemerre's paw
Qualifying for Euro 2000 was not easy, however. The French team is now led by Roger Lemerre, the former assistant to Aimé Jacquet. She begins the playoffs with a 1-1 draw in Iceland. Other unfortunate results will follow: draw 0-0 at home against Ukraine, 3-2 defeat at Saint-Denis against the Russians, narrow success 1-0 in Andorra… It was during the last day that the world champions land their ticket, thanks to a 3-2 success against Iceland and a 1-1 draw between Russia and Ukraine.
Roger Lemerre has been trying for months to impose his style, a football resolutely more offensive than that advocated by his ex-mentor, Jacquet. Despite the euphoria of 1998, supporters and the media are beginning to wonder. Especially since the French were paid, during the draw for Euro 2000, in a very strong group D, with the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Denmark. Fans and journalists will however be quickly reassured.
Mastery and power
For their debut in the tournament, the French strangle the Danes, 3-0. They then beat formidable Czechs, 2-1. Already qualified for the quarter-finals, the "Tricolores" offer themselves the luxury of lining up a team against the Dutch, from Bernard Lama in the cage to David Trézéguet at the forefront, via Johan Micoud with a baton. Defensive errors certainly offer a 3-2 success to the "Oranjes". But even with their replacements, the France team displayed talent and power. And it allowed its indisputable holders, like Laurent Blanc, Deschamps, Zidane and Thierry Henry, to breathe.
This strategy is very useful. Because by finishing 2nd in group D, the “Blues” find themselves, on the other hand, forced to face formidable adversaries. Starting with a Spain in reconstruction after elimination in the first round of the 1998 World Cup. A masterful free kick from Zidane and a powerful strike from Youri Djorkaeff allow to dismiss 2-1 the "Roja" of Pep Guardiola and Raul. In the semi-finals, then, you also need a good dose of realism to get out of Portugal, on the same score. The matter is settled, this time in overtime and with a penalty from Zidane. The Portuguese will cry out in scandal, despite a hand in its area of separation from defender Abel Xavier.
Realism and base
In the final, the French selection finds its attractive Italian counterpart. In 1998, she had dismissed Italy on penalties, in the quarterfinals of the World Cup, after a chilling mastery match. This July 2, 2000 in Rotterdam, the "Squadra Azzura" coached by the legendary Dino Zoff dominated the debates. It logically opens the scoring in the 55th minute, following a close range recovery from Marco Delvecchio. The "Blues" try in vain to come back and face a "Nazionale" perfectly in place, in a scheme in 3-5-2.
The end of regulation time is approaching and the Italian bench is already starting to celebrate his second coronation in this competition, after that of 1968. But, during stoppages, on a long clearance from Fabien Barthez, David Trezeguet, entered the game shortly before, deflects the ball towards a Sylvain Wiltord who is also a replacement at kick-off. The attacker strikes a cross strike from the left. Although the shot was not unstoppable, goalkeeper Francesco Toldo only stopped the ball running: 1-1 (90th + 3). Wiltord waves his finger as "No, it's not over". The Italians, they will not recover. Leached, they suffer in overtime. In the 103rd minute, Robert Pirès, also involved in the second half, left Demetrio Albertini and then Fabio Cannavoro, on the left wing. It centers back towards Trézéguet. The rest is known: the center forward scored the “golden goal” of a superb half-volley recovery: 2-1, final score. France is European champion.
At the zenith, before the sinking
Pain in the Italian camp. The Transalpines will however take their revenge, six years later, in the final of the 2006 World Cup. The "Blues", they become legendary by achieving a World-Euro double that only the Germans (RFA) had already succeeded ( Euro 1972-World 1974). French football is then in the firmament. He can boast of the quality of his training, which produces players who are as athletic as they are tactically and technically sound.
At the zenith, the "Tricolores" will still offer a coupette, in 2001, with the Confederations Cup, despite the international retreats of Blanc and Deschamps. Then, it will be the sinking, in 2002. The reigning world and European champions will approach the World Cup in Japan and South Korea, freewheeling, Roger Lemerre being overtaken by events. Starified and disunited, they will be ejected from the first round of the tournament, with zero victory and zero goal scored. They will be particularly surprised in the opening match by a talented team from Senegal…
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