France played their best match in six years, Brazil didn’t pay heed to the danger signals emanating from their previous game in Germany. The consequence was there for all to see on Saturday night when Zinedine Zidane did with a football what a magician would have done with his wand.
Having given a hint of what he is capable of in the game versus Spain, Zidane was at his imperious best in the quarter final. It was as if he had reserved this marquee show for Brazil. It was as if he wanted to point a finger at Ronaldinho and say, ‘this is how the world’s best ought to play.’
Zidane worked his magic down the left, middle and right. The ageing star used all his tricks, vision and football sense to throw the opposition at sixes and sevens.
For all of Zidane’s wizardry, it wasn’t a one-man show. Makelele had a fantastic match, aborting Brazil’s intended build-ups just inside the French half. The back-four was safe and secure, not showing unnecessary bravado. Vieira once again put in an untiring effort, Ribery added cutting edge to Zidane’s creations. Henry may not have dazzled like some others, but he shone at crunch time and did what the country expected him to.
At times, Zidane and his mates toyed with the Brazilians, who were reduced to a second-grade outfit. Brazil, in fact, can consider themselves lucky not to have lost by a bigger margin.
So impotent were Brazil that Barthez almost had a stroll in the park.
Ronaldinho was a mega flop. He got five games over three weeks to rediscover his game-making and scoring touch, but alas, we never got to see the two-time world’s best player, not even in half bloom.
We kept on thinking he would step on the accelerator in the next game, and he kept on playing safe, bland football. I don’t remember Ronaldinho advancing to the rival six-yard box even once in five games.
I wish Parreira had benched the hopelessly-out-of-form Ronaldinho. And if he couldn’t muster that courage, the coach should have definitely left out Roberto Carlos and Cafu, and played young side-backs Gilberto and Cicinho. Cafu was too slow, Carlos was not there mentally.
Parreira also erred in assessing the opposition. He didn’t expect Zidane and this French team to turn the clock back eight years. The France versus Spain match should have served as a warning bell. The Brazil coach should also have taken lessons from the none-too-convincing performance against Ghana.
In a nutshell, Parreira paid the price for keeping faith on three-four established players who were just not in sync with the rest of the team.