Blast from the Past – Euro 2000 Final: France 2-1 Italy

This edition of Blast from the Past relives the tense and tight final clash between France and Italy wherein the concept of golden goal proved to be the difference...

ITALY
Marco Delvecchio 55' 1-2 Sylvian Wiltord 90+4'
David Trezeguet 103'

FRANCE

Often, the first events of a year, decade or millennium run the risk of being imbued with meanings retrospectively. Being the showpiece event of the first major international tournament of the new millennium, there is a disposition to remember France versus Italy at the De Kuip Stadium in Rotterdam as an early trendsetter in what is, in the post Barcelona versus Inter 2009-10 era, perceived as a battle between two contrasting football ideologies.

De Kuip Stadium, Rotterdam

The Euro 2000 Final is far removed from its pre-match billing as a game whose outcome would be decided purely by the winner of the battle between the Zinedine Zidane inspired ‘Les Blues’ against the traditionally strong ‘Azzuri’ defensive unit marshalled by Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Nesta and Paolo Maldini. Such a one-dimensional view of the Final overlooks the role played by three notable contributors namely: (a) the Italian midfield trio which kept Zidane quiet right through the first 45 minutes of the match (b) the back four of France, which though second best on the night to the Italian defence, was definitely no slouch when it came to reigning in the Italian movements in the second half (though they received some valuable assistance from some wasteful Italian finishing)  and (c) the creative spark of Italian forward Francesco Totti, visible right through the game and paving the way for the first goal of the evening.

French coach Roger Lemerre started with 4-2-3-1, leaving out Nicolas Anelka and opting for Thierry Henry as the lone frontman supported by Christophe Dugarry and Youri Djorkaeff behind him. Italian manager Dino Zoff opted for a 3-5-2 and sprung a bigger surprise than Lemerre by opting for the pairing upfront of the inexperienced Marco Delvecchio and Francesco Totti (who had been dropped in the semifinal against the Dutch which the Italians had won in a penalty shootout) leaving Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro Del Piero on the substitute bench.

Zidane denied space to move and play

Zidane was given absolutely no space by the Italian midfield trio of Gianluca Pessotto, Demetrio Albertini and Luigi Di Biagio in the first half. France’s other two attacking midfield options – wingers Djorkaeff and Dugarry – failed to capitalise on the resultant space in the midfield as the Italians cut out the supply lines to Henry time and again. The few times the Arsenal striker got the ball he created opportunities including hitting the post in the 5th minute and then winning free kicks in the 30th and 41st minutes after his excellent solo runs on the inside left induced desperate measures from the Italians. Henry found Djorkaeff in the 39th minute only for the winger to shoot directly to the Italian goalkeeper Francesco Toldo.

At the other end, the Italians initiated a few attacking moves mainly down their right flank and the centre which were thwarted by the French Back Four of Laurent Blanc (playing his last international game for France), Lilian Thuram, Marcel Desailly and Bixente Lizarazu.

Delvecchio scores the opener after a Totti assist

At half time, France changed their tactics with Zidane moving forward – just as he had done in the second half of the semifinal against Portugal which the French won 2-1 with the winner coming from a controversial Zidane penalty. Ironically, this freed the Italian midfield, which started to engineer attacks with the duty of thwarting Zidane now being largely managed by their defenders. Alessandro Del Piero came off the bench in the 52nd minute and his link up with Totti galvanised Italy creatively. Three minutes later, Totti’s magic gave them a 1-0 lead. Receiving a ball with his back to the goal, Totti’s magical back-heel freed Pessotto on the right, whose perfect cross found Delvecchio who had squeezed in behind the French defence. It could well have been 3-0 to Italy had Del Piero managed to convert two gilt-edged chances that came his way – the first one in the 59th minute when he shot wide and the second in the 74th minute when his shot sailed over the bar.  


Sylvian Wiltord builds the foundation for the win

France brought in Sylvain Wiltord and David Trezeguet in place of Dugarry and Djorkaeff respectively – they now had three strikers; four with Zidane effectively playing right behind Henry in the second half. In the 93rdminute – with one minute of injury time remaining, Wiltord produced a shot from the left of the Italian box which eluded Toldo. The scoreline was 1-1, with the match to be decided by extra time and the then newly introduced concept of Golden Goal.

France -2000 Euro champions

In the 12th minute of extra time, the magic of French substitute Robert Pires on the left created history for the French. Pires beat three Italians on a golden run, then hoodwinked Nesta and found Trezeguet, who unfurled a thunderbolt which beat Toldo. Les Blues had achieved back-to-back wins of the World Cup and the Euro. 

 

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