| French captain Marcel Desailly holds aloft the Confederations Cup, surrounded by players from both teams in Saint Denis. France greeted Sunday’s triumph with a mixture of humility and subdued satisfaction, dedicating the night to the late Marc-Vivien Foe. (Reuters)
Paris: France retained the Confederations Cup on Sunday when an extra-time golden goal by Thierry Henry gave the hosts a 1-0 win over Cameroon in a match dedicated to the memory of Marc-Vivien Foe.
The Cameroon midfielder had collapsed during Thursday’s semi-final win over Colombia in Lyon and died shortly afterwards. France captain Marcel Desailly insisted on lifting the trophy jointly with Cameroon skipper Rigobert Song in a gesture that summed up a remarkable evening.
Both sides then came together for a lap of honour, carrying a lifesize photograph of Foe as the player’s name rang around the stadium.
France coach Jacques Santini said: “This final feels somehow unfinished because of the circumstances it was played in. A family has lost a member and someone who was dear to us has gone forever. We had to learn how to win with several key players missing,” he added, referring to Zinedine Zidane. His opposite number, Winfried Schafer, said it was “absolutely right” to play the final. “It was the wish of the team, Marc-Vivien’s wife and me to play tonight,” said the German coach.
For the Indomitable Lions, both the match and the tournament paled into insignificance after the loss of Foe. His wife Marie-Louise sat next to Fifa president Sepp Blatter at the game, with Pele and Roger Milla just behind.
The Cameroon players donned green shirts with Foe’s name and No. 17 stamped on the back while the 52,000 crowd at the Stade de France chanted Foe’s name and applauded. The evenly-contested match was played in an atmosphere of mutual respect and there were few scoring chances in the first 90 minutes.
Henry’s scrambled winner — the first goal Cameroon conceded in the tournament — also made the outstanding Arsenal striker its top scorer with four goals.
When the match started, France’s first chance was predictably conjured up by Henry, when he neatly shot the ball across the face of the Cameroon goal, but Djibril Cisse’s stooping header turned it wide of the far post. Henry, who was also voted player of the tournament, followed up with a smart turn and shot which ’keeper Idris Kameni smothered as France built on their promising start. However, Cameroon settled into their rhythm and only an acrobatic save from Fabien Barthez prevented Pius Ndiefi flicking them into the lead.
Cameroon, the reigning African champions, kept pushing forward and the hosts had a narrow escape when substitute Samuel Eto’o nearly signalled his remarkable arrival with a goal from his first touch of the ball.
Eto’o arrived in Paris from Spain after scoring twice for Real Mallorca in a 3-0 King’s Cup final win over Recreativo Huelva late on Saturday. The game was settled seven minutes into the extra period when substitute Lilian Thuram sent a probing ball into the box and Henry used his knee to nudge it past Kameni into the net.
Scrap No. 17: Song
Song feels that Cameroon’s No. 17 shirt should be withdrawn after the death of Foe, the last man to wear it.
The Cameroon skipper said: “It’s not my decision but I think the No. 17 shirt should no longer be a part of the national team. “It ought to remain with Marco’s memory because he always wore it, ever since he joined the national team. Honestly, I think it’s something we have to do.” Both Foe’s former French clubs, Olympique Lyon and RC Lens, have said they would be withdrawing their No. 17 shirts, which he also wore when representing them.