Posted by By BARRY WILNER, AP Sports Writer on
France still has Brazil's number. And on Saturday, the French had all the flair, too.
FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) -- France still has Brazil's number. And on Saturday, the French had all the flair, too.
The experienced and savvy French ousted the five-time champions 1-0 in a stunningly one-sided World Cup quarterfinal game. Tacked onto France's 3-0 victory in the 1998 title match -- the last time Brazil lost in the World Cup -- it's clear the Brazilians have a nemesis at soccer's highest level.
The heroes were familiar as well. Zinedine Zidane, headed into retirement after the tournament, served a perfect free kick to Thierry Henry in the 57th minute. Completely unmarked, Henry had the whole right side of the net and smashed in a right-footed volley.
It was Zidane who lifted his nation past the Brazilians in 1998, scoring two goals for France's first title.
This was a shocking exit for Brazil, the pretournament favorite. The Brazilians had just one shot on goal all game and allowed huge defensive gaps all night. Stars such as Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka were either invisible or inept.
"This was not a lucky victory," Henry said.
"I've always said this World Cup isn't about us dreaming of winning, but I have to say this victory is the stuff of dreams," added Henry, who hugged several Brazilian players after the match. "Now we want to go all the way."
France began the tournament so poorly it appeared headed for a first-round exit like four years ago. Instead, France heads to the semifinals against Portugal on Wednesday in Munich.
With Germany playing Italy in Tuesday's semifinal in Dortmund, this will be the first all-European final four since 1982.
In the final minutes, Brazil desperately pressed forward, with Ronaldinho surfacing at last and barely missing on a free kick. Two more attacks yielded nothing as France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez screamed at his teammates to hold on.
Barthez was gripping a floater by Lucio as the clock ran out, setting off a wild celebration in which the France players mobbed each other while jumping in a circle. Several of them offered hugs to the vanquished and dazed Brazilians before heading to the corner where their fans were waving flags and taking pictures -- and savoring a magnificent victory.
Brazil and France have played three times since the 1998 final, with France winning 2-1 in the 2001 Confederations Cup in South Korea and then playing to a 0-0 draw in a 2004 friendly in Paris.
Obviously, intimidation is not a factor for the French, who were the better team all night. Zidane wove, bobbed and spun his way through the Brazilian midfield, looking like his three-time FIFA World Player of the Year self.
He orchestrated a short passing game that looked Brazilian. Several of his superb touches led to dangerous opportunities for Henry, Patrick Vieira, Franck Ribery and Florent Malouda.
Toward the end of the first half, Ronaldo and Juan both drew yellow cards trying to slow down the French offense.
Juan pulled down Vieira on a near breakaway after a brilliant feed by Zidane from midfield. It could have drawn a red card and ejection, but referee Luis Medina pulled out the yellow, setting up a free kick from 20 yards that Ronaldo blocked with his arm just outside the penalty area.
That drew a yellow for Brazil's scoring star, but his team escaped a scramble near its goal as the half ended.
It was a temporary reprieve.
For all Zidane's flowing play, it was his dead-ball cross following a foul that netted France's goal.
About 30 yards out on the left wing, Zidane lofted an inward swinging cross. The Brazilians' marking had been loose all game and this time they paid for it. Henry, completely free at the back post, met the ball with his right foot. Goalkeeper Dida had no chance.
In front of French President Jacques Chirac, France made Brazil look so ordinary -- at times amateurish -- that the yellow-clad Brazilians in the crowd even were whistling at their team late in the match.
Brazil's streak of three straight finals, two of them wins, and 11 straight World Cup victories was snapped.
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