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Somber Final Finishes on Henry’s Golden Goal

Times Staff Writer

Thierry Henry ended a somber Confederations Cup final on Sunday when his 97th-minute golden goal gave host France a 1-0 victory over a mourning Cameroon side.

But rather than celebrate wildly after successfully defending their title in the eight-nation, 12-day tournament at Stade de France in Saint-Denis, the French were mindful to be respectful of Cameroon’s feelings. Midfielder Marc-Vivien Foe collapsed and died Thursday in the African champion’s semifinal victory over Turkey.

“This final feels somehow unfinished because of the circumstances it was played in,” France Coach Jacques Santini said after the match. “A family has lost a member and someone who was dear to us has gone forever.”

Cameroon wore white jerseys with Foe’s name on them instead of its normal green and both teams wore black armbands in memory of Foe. Players from both teams also linked arms before kickoff to observe a moment of silence.

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Rather than go ahead with its planned pre- and post-match festivities, FIFA scratched them in remembrance of the 28-year-old Foe, who had played professionally in France for Racing Lens and Olympique Lyon.

Cameroon captain Rigobert Song, though, carried a five-foot-high photo of Foe onto the field before the game and was joined by France captain Marcel Desailly.

Henry’s winning score, his fourth goal of the tournament, came in front of 51,985 when he kneed in a ball just after Song missed a through ball in the box.

Rough Seas for Oceania

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Oceania was anything but pleased with FIFA after soccer’s world governing body had stripped the confederation of its automatic bid to the 2006 World Cup on Saturday.

“In my view the decision is a disgrace and I think it is politically driven to accommodate the powerful South Americans,” Oceania Confederation President Basil Scarsella told Associated Press. “It’s unethical, it’s immoral, call it what you like.”

Most of the rest of the world would call it a mega-compromise after FIFA came up with the decision instead of extending the World Cup field from 32 to 36 teams. It was an idea heavily backed by CONMEBOL, the South American confederation, which had hoped to sneak another club or two into the tournament.

That’s of little consolation to Oceania, which comprises Australia, New Zealand and numerous Pacific islands.

FIFA President Joseph “Sepp” Blatter defended the decision by pointing to New Zealand’s poor performance in the Confederations Cup and Soccer Australia’s well-publicized administrative problems.

But New Zealand Soccer Chief Executive Bill MacGowan was having none of it.

“These are excuses more than reasons in my mind,” he said. “The executive committee had overwhelmingly supported [Oceania] in the past and now they’ve gone 180 degrees.

“It’s an absolutely unbelievable decision which came from nowhere. This is just politics of the highest level.”

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Said Les Avory, acting Soccer Australia chairman: “I’m stunned. How can [FIFA] throw someone a lifeline ... then cut us adrift when we are doing OK?

"[FIFA] should be ashamed of themselves. We’re either part of the family or we’re not.”

Lucio Staying Put

Hoping to quell speculation that he will leave the German Bundesliga for Italy and AS Roma, Bayer Leverkusen defender Lucio and his club put out a release Sunday declaring his professional intentions.

“I have decided to play for another year with Bayer Leverkusen,” Lucio said in the statement. “We have a strong team and I feel extremely good here with my family.”

Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper reported Saturday that the transfer hit a snag over Lucio’s salary demands, that Roma’s offer of $3.2 million was not enough. But Lucio dismissed reports that he was seeking at least $4.57 million.

“We all know that the times are no longer what they were,” he told a German newspaper in Cologne. “I’m not a money grubber.”

It was reported earlier this week, though, that Roma and Leverkusen had agreed to a transfer fee of $17.14 million.

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Times wire services contributed to this report.


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