France beats Italy 3-1 in WC final rematch

France beat Italy 3-1 tonight in a Euro 2008 qualifying match at the Stade de France in Paris. I took the day off from work to watch the game in which Sidney Gouvou scored twice and Thierry Henry once to propel les Bleus to victory. The game’s pace was incredible from the start and worth watching for anyone who enjoys good football. Fortunately, the fears that the game might get out of control were never realized.

Finally, and inevitably, the shadow of Zinédine Zidane was inescapable. The Guardian’s game story described his presence:

The outpouring of joy on the final whistle, a din to match a breathtaking occasion, reflected a nation’s belated satisfaction. La revanche had been on the locals’ minds and by the end it was on their lips. The rasped homage echoing around this arena was for “Zizou”. Zinédine Zidane will have enjoyed watching from afar even if Marco Materazzi, the man whose remark prompted the playmaker’s infamous butt in Berlin, was still suspended.

Zidane was everywhere last night. His name was emblazoned across the fans’ shirts, his image flickering down from the big screens above both goals. France rose to the occasion, easing their way to victory with a goal after 70 seconds, volleyed magnificently by Govou at the far post from William Gallas’s cross. That set the tone for the evening. “It wasn’t a perfect performance,” said the coach Raymond Domenech. “That would have seen us score with every attack and not concede, but we beat the best in the world, the world champions. That is satisfying.”

It didn’t appear that Zidane was actually at the game, although television cameras spotted Michel Platini in the stands.

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