Donetsk (Ukraine), Jun 16 : France won a match at a major tournament for the first time since Zinedine Zidane's head-butt, beating Ukraine 2-0 today in a storm-delayed match at the European Championship.
Jeremy Menez and Yohan Cabaye scored early in the second half for the French, who last won a major match in the semifinals of the 2006 World Cup. In the final of that tournament, Zidane was given a red card for his head-butt in the last match of his career.
“We scored twice and could have had more,” France coach Laurent Blanc said. “We have a lot of potential.” Today's match at the Donbass Arena was suspended for nearly an hour because thunder, lightning and torrential rain forced the players off the field after five minutes. It resumed almost an hour later.
After a 1-1 draw with England in its opening match, France has four points in Group D, one more than Ukraine.
The French also extended their unbeaten run to 23 games. “I congratulated my players and the Ukrainian players,” Blanc said. “It was a good match with both teams trying to attack.”
Both France goals were the product of the one-touch passing and movement that was once the team's hallmark. For the first, Franck Ribery gathered the ball on the left, sprinted forward and then set up Karim Benzema near the penalty area.
The Real Madrid forward stroked the ball to Menez, who then cut inside and drilled a low shot inside the near post with his left foot.
The goal justified Blanc's decision to replace veteran midfielder Florent Malouda with Menez, although the Paris Saint-Germain winger had two earlier chances denied by the legs of Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov.
France's second goal was another example of exquisite teamwork, with Ribery and Samir Nasri combining to find Benzema.
He cushioned the ball and then split the Ukraine center halves with a superbly weighted pass that allowed Cabaye to run on and finish with an angled shot.