Zidane, the Brazil slayer

It was the 1998 final all over again for Zidane, whose free-kick from the left was volleyed into the back of the net by THIERRY HENRY, thereby throwing the defending champions out of the tournament, writes TOM ROSS.

Brazil's defence of the World Cup ended tamely in Frankfurt at the quarter-final stage with a 1-0 defeat against the nation that beat them in the 1998 final and had their measure again. Frenchman Thierry Henry's second-half strike, his third goal of the tournament, was enough to kill off Carlos Alberto Parreira's side who produced a display bereft of any of the football the five-times world champions are famous for.

The likes of Ronaldo and Ronaldinho were unable to make any headway against Les Bleus, who won the tournament in 1998 — the last time it was staged in Europe — inspired by Zidane's creativity.

There was no better stage for the former two-time FIFA World Footballer of the Year to rekindle his old magic than a World Cup meeting against Brazil and the sight of so many creative players in the rival ranks.

It was the 1998 final all over again for Zidane. Apart from the opening 10 minutes and a late Brazil rally, the French dominated the match and got the reward they deserved after 57 minutes when Henry netted his third goal of the tournament. Henry's winner was a far-post volley from a free-kick delivered by inspirational playmaker Zinedine Zidane, the hero of the 1998 final who will retire when France's tournament is over.

Brazil's star-studded side never looked like breaking down a French side that remained solid throughout.

Brazil had the better of the opening 10 minutes and Ronaldinho won a free-kick when he was bundled over by William Gallas on the edge of the area but Juninho Pernambucano's free-kick struck the wall and was deflected over. Brazil created their best chance when Ronaldo headed over a free-kick from Ronaldinho after 11 minutes but after that early spell it was mainly France for the remainder of the match.

A couple of blocked shots from Henry showed the French were in business and next Franck Ribery fired over after a Zidane corner was headed out to him. Ronaldinho, in a more advanced role because of Parreira's decision to omit Adriano from the starting line-up, almost played in Ronaldo but the man who has scored more World Cup goals — 15 — than any other player was beaten to the ball by Fabien Barthez.

Cafu was booked for pulling the shirt of Eric Abidal after losing possession and minutes later Zidane curled an ambitious free-kick over from 35 yards as France continued to get better. Some magic from Zidane put Patrick Vieira through the middle and he was halted by a challenge by Juan who was lucky to escape with just a caution from Spanish referee Luis Medina Cantalejo, although it would still have been enough to rule him out of a possible semifinal with Portugal.

Henry's free-kick struck Ronaldo in the wall and the Brazil striker too earned a yellow card although he had appeared to be trying to protect himself. It gave France an even better chance but Zidane drove the ball into the wall with Lucio making the block.

To the relief of the Brazilians the half-time whistle sounded but at the start of the second half France were still in the ascendancy with Vieira heading a Zidane free-kick wide. Next Henry put the ball in the goal although Medina Cantelejo had already whistled for offside against Vieira.

The goal that rewarded France's dominance came after 57 minutes when Zidane floated in a free-kick from out on the left and an unmarked Henry stole in at the far post to volley the ball into the roof of the net. France almost made it 2-0 when Ribery drilled the ball across the goal and Juan, in an attempt to clear, almost scored an own goal.

Henry also almost set up Ribery but his shot was blocked by the onrushing goalkeeper Dida. Lucio was then booked for a crude foul on Henry with Brazil, even after the introduction of Adriano, looking out of ideas and then Cicinho came on for Cafu and Robinho for Kaka. Robinho fired over from a half-chance and Ronaldo hit a 20-yard shot wide.

Brazil were looking a beaten side. Ronaldo won a free-kick with what looked a dive that earned Lilian Thuram a booking but Ronaldinho's free-kick was just over. Substitute Louis Saha, released by Dida, forced a save from Zidane and Barthez beat away a Ronaldo shot.

The final whistle signalled a deserved French victory and further delayed the retirement of Zidane, who must now be dreaming of a golden farewell.

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