Sunday, April 21, 2019

Tournaments-Part 10- 1997 Tournoi de France-Part 1 (Introduction and First Round of Matches-June 3-4, 1997)

Photo From: L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire
(Roberto Carlos’ free kick, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Continuing the precedents set with the Scania 100 (1991), US Cup (1993) and Umbro Cup (1995), France hosted a four-team Tournament in the summer of 1997, just one year before the start of the World Cup that they would be hosting.
Just like the aforementioned previous Tournaments, this would not only be a test and a dry run for the host Nation on the playing front, but also for the organizational logistics.
The CFO (Comité Français d’Organisation) de France 98 led by Co-Presidents: Michel Platini and Fernand Sastre administered the ‘Tournoi’ along with the French Football Federation (FFF) and the French League.
The French, eager to finally win the World Cup, invited three of the biggest Football Nations: Brazil, Italy and England.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 101, June 1997

The French hosts were recovering after the fiasco of failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup on the last day of qualification with a last minute goal from Bulgaria. (The infamous November 17, 1993, France 1-Bulgaria 2).
This had brought the end of the Gerard Houllier regime and the appointment of Aimé Jacquet as Manager.
The former Bordeaux Manager had been under the radar since his Bordeaux days, but had a good reputation as an educator.
He was tasked with rebuilding France with his first brief being the 1996 Euros. After some difficulty France had qualified and reached the semi-finals, which convinced the French hierarchy to continue with him until the World Cup.
He had tinkered with his selections, however, Eric Cantona’s Kung-Fu kick (vs. Crystal Palace in 1995) and David Ginola’s unacceptable demand for a starting position had forced his hand to build the team around the emerging talent of the young Zinedine Zidane as midfield organizer complemented with Youri Djorkaeff further upfront.
The team was still led with Captain Didier Deschamps and his friend from Nantes days Marcel Desailly, who provided steel and resolve and experience along with Laurent Blanc.
As far as the goalkeeping position, since the 1996 Euros, Bernard Lama was starting to slowly to lose his place to Monaco goalkeeper Fabien Barthez.
Lama further self-inflicted more damage to his chances by being suspended after a drugs test had revealed traces of cannabis just months prior.
Jacquet had built a side with its strength being its defensive solidity. The weakness was in the striking position where despite many experiments no player had broken out to make the position his own.
Attacking midfielder Youri Djorkaeff was regarded as France’s main source for scoring goals.
This ‘Tournoi’ was a perfect opportunity for Jacquet to try out many different formations and tactics as well trying out as many strikers as possible.
Jacquet made his intents clear. He stated that he would not discuss other teams. This ‘Tournoi’ would be so that France can focus on itself and think together.
He stated that the objectives are foremost the results and afterwards the play. He cautioned that this Tournament is not the World Cup and irrespective of the outcome, there are nine more preparatory matches until the main event next year.
He also added that given the French mentality he almost secretly wished that France did poorly, as to be better by the World Cup.

Defending 1994 World Cup Champions Brazil had been entrusted to veteran Manager Mario Zagallo (already Manager back in 1970 and 1974 World Cups).
They were restrained to Preparatory matches until the World Cup. They were naturally very much in demand and their schedule for that year not included friendly matches, but this ‘Tournoi’ immediately followed by the Copa America in Bolivia and at the end of the year they were to take part in the FIFA Confederations Cup (they played over 20 matches that calendar year).
Despite all their strength in depth it was one player that the center of attention. This was the year of Ronaldo. That season the young Brazilian had broken through at Barcelona and was regarded as the World’s number one and most sought after player (he would soon be on his way to Internazionale Milano).
Never since days of Diego Maradona, more than a decade earlier, had there been a player with such media attention around a single player.
Nike were perhaps thinking of that when they closed the deal to become Brazil’s kit manufacturers. A young bankable star such as ‘El Fenomeno’ could only take them higher. In time Nike’s relationship and influence within the Brazilian National Team would be questioned (especially the following year at the World Cup, but that is another story…)

Photo From: France Football, Issue 2670, June 10, 1997
(Tostao and Leonardo during the Tournament)

Another good news for Brazil that year had been the re-introduction of veteran Romario to the National Team. He had been out of the National team set-up since the end of the 1994 World Cup. But he was back and hungrier and ever and his combination with the younger Romario (Ro-Ro) made Brazilians dream of an unstoppable strike force.
The main absentees for Brazil were Middlesbrough midfielder Juninho and veteran striker Bebeto.
Zagallo was very enthusiastic about the ‘Tournoi’ and its importance for the Brazilian National team. He stressed the chance to work for an extended time with his euro-based players. Furthermore, he underlined the difficulty in finding quality opposition during the season, as the other Nations are pre-occupied with the qualifiers.

The two remaining participants were coincidentally in the same World Cup qualifying Group. In fact, Italy had defeated England (1-0) at Wembley just months prior in February. The Italians were the most reluctant of the participants.
Italy Manager Cesare Maldini (father of Captain Paolo) had been appointed months earlier after previous Manager Arrigo Sacchi and his protector Italy Federation President Antonio Matarrese had been ousted. Italy’s debacle at the 1996 Euros had been their ultimate undoing.
It was this previous regime that had agreed on this Tournament and Cesar Maldini time and again reminded that he had ‘inherited’ this.
The Italian Serie A had just finished the weekend before and he wanted his players to have a much-needed rest instead of playing high quality opposition.
Such was C. Maldini’s demand for rest, that the Italians had even contemplated paying a heavy fine to forego participation, but in the end were convinced to stay. However, C. Maldini wisely played down expectations given his players’ fatigue.
He also questioned the wisdom of playing England three times in the same calendar year (in addition to the Tournoi, the sides were to meet one another in a key qualifier in October in Rome).

England on the other hand came out as the most enthusiastic of the participants and were ultimately the primary beneficiaries of this competition.
Young Manager Glenn Hoddle had been appointed at the end of the 1996 Euros replacing Terry Venables. He brought with him a wave of fresh enthusiasm and was seen as a progressive Manager open to the tactics of the continent.

Photo From: Shoot, June 21, 1997
(England Manager Glenn Hoddle)

He had learned a lot from his time in France at Monaco under Arsene Wenger.
He had also introduced many young players into the side, such as new star David Beckham. He had been the toast of England, ever since scoring from halfway line for Manchester United vs. Wimbledon in the opening match of the season. He was a new crop of player, who was about to make the transition into celebrity show-bizz stardom.
Hoddle’s biggest headache was how to handle Paul Gascoigne. Despite his obvious talents, his fitness (or lack thereof) and his off-field problems were a constant distraction to the National Team.
Hoddle could rely on Paul Ince, who had taken on another dimension, since his spell in Italy with Inter, as well as Captain and reliable goalscorer Alan Shearer.
Despite Hoddle’s enthusiasm, not everyone in England was as eager for this end of season competition.
Liverpool pair of Steve McManaman and Robbie Fowler bowed out as both had scheduled surgeries (McManaman for his knee and Fowler for his nasal problems).
Liverpool Manager Roy Evans stared, “We will always do our utmost to support England in the World Cup or European Championship…I’m not sure how much value attaches to end-of-season events like this. Players have so many fixture demands they don’t get the necessary time to recharge their batteries-and get over their injuries”.
It was also reported that Manchester United Manager Alex Ferguson had urged his players to renounce and rest. However, many of his players did go with Gary Neville stating that it was an honor to represent his Country.

While France and Italy had been inactive since April, England and Brazil were involved in a number of matches.
Brazil played a friendly at Oslo on May 31st that resulted in a disappointing (2-4) loss (Jacquet had dispatched Assistant Roger Lemerre to observe Brazil). The loss would have a significant effect for the future of 1994 World Cup defender Marcio Santos. He had digressed since the World Cup bouncing between clubs. His disastrous match signal his end as far as the National Team. Zagallo defended him by saying he should have spared him as he was not ready and maintained faith, but as future events would prove, Marcios Santos’ time was up.
England for their part played two matches in this end of May. One was a friendly vs. South Africa on May 24th (2-1 win) followed by a key World Cup qualifier vs. Poland on May 30th at Chorzow (2-0 England win).
The wins not only gave England confidence, but the important qualifier had forced them to have a competitive edge which they carried over into the Tournament as an advantage over their opponents as they were better prepared.
Unfortunately, England were not unscathed in these two matches and Liverpool midfielder Jamie Redknapp was injured vs. South Africa and his ‘Tournoi’ was over.

‘Le Tournoi’ kicked off on June 3rd with France hosting Brazil at Lyon’s Stade Gerland. Parts of the stadium were still in construction as part of the re-development for the World Cup. A Mural showing 32 of the greatest players of the past was placed to mask the work. This sparked some conversation as the likes of Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo himself were omitted. Platini’s response was that “choosing always means eliminating”.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 102, July 1997
(The wall of stars)

Photo From: L'Annee du Football, 1997
(The wall of stars)

This had been the first full season of the Bosman ruling and many French players such as Zidane, Djorkaeff, Thuram, Blanc and Dugarry and others had joined top foreign leagues (especially Italy’s Serie A).
The Italian contingent had arrived exhausted and Jacquet had to be selective in choosing his lineups.
For this first test, Jacquet chose a 4-3-3 formation. Deschamps and Karembeu would act as double defensive midfielders with Zidane as organizer. Florian Maurice (back after a long injury lay-off) would be up front flanked by wingers: Ba (on the right) and Pires (on the left).

Photo From: Kicker-WM-1998
(France squad, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

No doubt Olympique Lyonnais’ Maurice started to please the Lyon crowd.
Djorkaeff was rested as he arrived exhausted from the last Serie A match of the season. The player himself stated that it was a wise decision to spare him for this match.
Zagallo had decided to start with Celio Silva in defense ahead of Marcio Santos (after the latter’s disastrous display vs. Norway).

Photo From: Goal, Issue 33, June 1998
(Brazil squad, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

France started better in the first 20 minutes. That was until Brazil were awarded a free kick. Roberto Carlos would step to take a free kick. Little did anyone know that this free kick would be one of the most memorable events of World Football History that is referenced to this day and has ensured Roberto Carlos’ legacy in the game.
Roberto Carlos ran and with his left foot swerved his powerful free kick AROUND the wall; it hit Barthez’s left side post and went in.
It was a moment of unbelievable brilliance that would be even more fully appreciated in Television replays.
Afterwards Roberto Carlos stated that this was the first time he had ever scored in such a manner. Barthez would take the responsibility for not arranging the wall properly but after viewing the replays it was clear that there was nothing anyone could have done against such a strike.
England’s Stuart Pearce stated that on the following day in training, the English players tried to emulate Roberto Carlos’ free kick, but every attempt ended in the Highway.

Photo From: L’Equipe, L’Equipe de France de Football, la Belle Histoire
(Roberto Carlos’ free kick, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

After that France lost their composure and were demoralized (according to Jacquet) and Brazil were in more control, especially in the flanks with Cafu and Roberto Carlos.
Jacquet would replace the disappointing Pires with Marc Keller in the second half, as France stepped up a gear in search of an equalizer.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 102, July 1997
(Laurent Blanc, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Issue 112, May 1998
(Bixente Lizarazu and Ronaldo, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

They were rewarded in the 60th minute, when Keller knocked in a rebound from close range after Taffarel had parried an attempt by Maurice.
For Brazil, Cafu was excellent on his flank, while Giovanni and Romario struggled (they would both be substituted).
The end of the match could not come fast enough for the French who were tiring.
The tired duo of Deschamps and Zidane were unable to exert their influence. Pires, Maurice and Candela did not help their cause after their display.

Photo From: World Soccer, August 1997
(June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Photo From: Le Livre D'or du Football 1997, Author Gerard Ejnes
(June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Photo From: Guerin Sportivo, Issue 1150 (Number 24), June 13-18, 1997
(Roberto Carlos and Ibrahima Ba, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Maurice was well handled by Celio Silva and Aldair and was rarely a threat.
Roberto Carlos overmatched Candela on his flank, as a result most of France’s attacks shifted by default to Lizarazu’s left flank.
Jacquet would also experiment by sending on right-back Lilian Thuram to replace Marcel Desailly in the center of defense.

Photo From: L'Annee du Football, 1997
(Ronaldo, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Photo From: Official match programme, Australia vs France – 2001
(Marcel Desailly and Leonardo, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

After the match, Jacquet praised how his team had found ”motivation, balance, concentration and determination” in the beginning of the second half. He added, “Defensively, we managed to handle some very tough work very well”. Jacquet believed his team doubted itself after a “free kick from another world” and were naïve and showed Brazil too much respect.
He did stress how difficult the last 20 minutes were due to fatigue of his players.
Laurent Blanc admitted as much by saying, “after the 50th minute it was hard to continue, we are not robots”.

Photo From: L'Annee du Football, 1997
(June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Serie A fatigue caught up with Christian Karembeu and would be injured and replaced as early as the 14th by Patrick Vieira.
After the match, Zidane asked to be rested vs. England to recuperate.
The lack of public support for France would also become a point of contention. Deschamps complained that when the team was struggling against Brazil, the fans did not back the team unconditionally, he added, “These are precisely the moments when we need them.”
Jacquet also commented on this and said, “We have an identity and the National Team of France deserves a larger popular support.”

Photo From: Kicker-WM-1998
(Brazil squad, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Photo From: France Football, Issue 2669 bis, June 6, 1997
(Tactical formation of France, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

Photo From: France Football, Issue 2669 bis, June 6, 1997
(Tactical formation of Brazil, June 3, 1997, Le Tournoi, France 1-Brazil 1)

On the next day (June 4th), England faced Italy at Nantes’ Stade de la Beaujoire.
Italy were to start without the injured Captain Paolo Maldini with Antonio Bennarivo deputizing for him.
Cesare Maldini deployed a 4-4-2 formation, even though 5-3-2 was his preferred choice.
The English were also missing their Captain, as Alan Shearer was rested.
In fact after the World Cup qualifier vs. Poland just days earlier, Hoddle had wisely opted to rest some of the players and only five starters from the Poland match started vs. The Italians.
Beckham had played as a wingback in that match vs. Poland but had been disappointing; Hoddle placed him in the middle for this match.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Hors Serie 25, June 1997
(David Beckham, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

Hoddle decided to rest Paul Gascoigne and David Batty. This gave an opportunity for young Manchester United midfielder Paul Scholes.
Scholes was a surprise choice as he was rarely a starter for his club, but he took his chance and made Hoddle take notice with a superb performance consisting of a goal and an assist. He set up Ian Wright with a long cross from his own half (26th minute) before Wright returned the favor and set up Scholes who struck home with a volley (60th minute).

Photo From: World Soccer, August 1997
(Paul Scholes celebrating, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

Photo From: France Football, Issue 2669 bis, June 6, 1997
(Ian Wright, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

Photo From: L'Annee du Football, 1997
(Ian Wright, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

Gascoigne came on late in the match, but was needlessly booked. He managed to set up David Beckham with a very good chance, who failed to capitalize on the chance.
Paul Ince had an excellent match for an English side that were perhaps motivated by revenge after their loss in February.
Hoddle had repeatedly stated that they were taking ‘Le Tournoi’ seriously and wanted to win.

Photo From: Onze-Mondial, Hors Serie 27, April 1998
(Phil Neville, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

In contrast, the Italians were exhausted and were sleepwalking. Antonio Bennarivo was the lone Italian to hold his own.
Cesare Maldini echoed his earlier statements by pointing out their physical inferiority against a fitter English squad.
As early as the 17th minute, Roberto Di Matteo was forced off injured (to be replaced with Fuser). In the second half, C. Maldini sent on Maini and Nesta to replace the tired Juventus pair of Di Livio and Ferrara, but the duo failed to make any impact just like the rest of their teammates.

Photo From: Goal, Issue 25, October 1997
(Gareth Southgate and Gianfranco Zola, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

Photo From: Goal, Issue 25, October 1997
(Fabio Cannavaro and Ian Wright, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

This was Cesare Maldini’s first loss as Italy Manager. Afterwards, he said, “In life, there are happy moments and not so happy ones…this is my first defeat since being appointed, but there’s always a first time, right?”
England’s Gareth Southagte referenced their October showdown by stating,  “That game showed Italy we really can play…The Italians may dismiss it publicly, but privately they know they have a lot to worry about.”

Photo From: Shoot, June 21, 1997
(Teddy Sheringham and Ian Wright, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

Photo From: France Football, Issue 2669 bis, June 6, 1997
(Tactical formation of the two teams, June 4, 1997, Le Tournoi, England 2-Italy 0)

(To be continued tomorrow, with the second round of matches, June 7th, France vs. England and June 8th, Brazil vs. Italy)

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