France Escapes Without a Mark, 2-1


The hand-lettered sign high up in the south stands at Stade de Gerland here Wednesday afternoon read: "French Dynamite."

It was one fan's twist on a favorite Denmark chant: "We are red, we are white, we are Danish dynamite."

Well, the fuses must have been damp in both camps on a hot, sunny afternoon because the game between France and Denmark never exploded to life. There were moments of artistry, but overall it was a pretty dull affair.

The record books will show that France won, 2-1, to keep intact its unbeaten and untied record after three World Cup '98 games in Group C. The fact that Paraguay is next in line to try its luck indicates that a 4-0 start and a place in the quarterfinals beckons Coach Aime Jacquet's team.

Especially since the lineup he sent out Wednesday contained no fewer than eight second-choice players in the starting 11. The key player missing, of course, was captain and playmaker Zinedine Zidane, who was serving the first game of a two-game suspension.

But the second string held its own.

"The team was remodeled for very precise circumstances, but we still played with a lot of composure and confidence," Jacquet said.

But it was not all that easy for the French.

They took the lead in the 13th minute after attacking from the opening whistle under the prompting of midfielder Youri Djorkaeff, the creative leader in Zidane's absence.

French defender Vincent Candela started the move, stealing the ball in his own half and sprinting down the left sideline before passing to forward David Trezeguet, who was clumsily bundled over by Danish defender Jes Hogh.

Italian referee Pierluigi Collina awarded France a penalty kick and Djorkaeff beat goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel, playing in his Danish record 103rd international, with a shot into the lower-left corner that Schmeichel got a hand to but could not stop.

The goal was especially memorable for Djorkaeff, coming in his hometown and in front of French President Jacques Chirac.

"I got a wonderful reception from the crowd," Djorkaeff said. "It was an incredible feeling to play a World Cup match in Lyon and to score my first ever World Cup goal in my hometown."

Three minutes before halftime, referee Collina evened the score, awarding the Danes a penalty kick after Candela had rugby-tackled Martin Jorgensen as Jorgensen ran onto a quickly taken free kick by Michael Laudrup.

Laudrup, playing alongside younger brother Brian in the Danish attack, struck a firm shot past French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez to make it 1-1.

The winning goal came in the 56th minute after the ball had been batted around in front of the Danish net for several seconds. Two shots were blocked, but the ball then rebounded to pony-tailed Emmanuel Petit, who hit a low line drive into the bottom-right corner of the net.

Denmark took the loss well, especially considering it advances to the second round anyway because South Africa could not defeat Saudi Arabia on Wednesday.

"France were by far the better side," said Denmark's coach, Bo Johansson.

"We had a few good phases in attack but we were constantly having to work very hard in defense."

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World