Spain struck late via Jose Luis Caminero to force a 1-1 draw with France and leave Group B on a knife edge heading into the final round of games. The result left France in control of their own destiny, while Spain knew a win in their final group game would at worst force them into a three way tie breaker.
France coach Aime Jacquet made three changes to his 4-3-3 lineup from the opener, switching up both fullbacks and his center forward. Jocelyn Angloma was drafted in at right back, while Bixente Lizarazu replaced Eric Di Meco, who had struggled in the opening game against Romanian winger Marius Lacatus. Patrice Loko started at center forward, leaving Christophe Dugarry likely disappointed to be benched after netting the winning goal in France’s Group B opener against Romania.
Javier Clemente drafted Juan Manuel Lopez and Jorge Otero into the Spanish back four, while Alfona and Caminero, both of whom played midfield in the opening draw against Bulgaria, were paired up top in a 4-4-2. Rafael Alkorta, a center back against Bulgaria, was moved up to central midfield to partner Fernando Hierro for this game.
Energetic left back Lizarazu made an early impression on the game, bursting down the left flank and beating several players before being hauled down on the edge of the area by Lopez. Zinedine Zidane stepped up to take the free kick, but his shot deflected off the wall and out for a corner.
Minutes later Spain were up the other end for a chance of their own carved out by their new striker partnership. Caminero released the hard running Alfonso in on goal, and the striker did appear to have his ankles clipped by Laurent Blanc, only for Belarussian referee Vadim Zhuk to wave play on.
Both teams showed plenty of quality in possession during the opening stages, and established different patterns of attack. For Spain, moving the strength and aerial presence of Caminero up top played dividends as he held up the ball well and flicked balls on for the pacey Alfonso to play around him.
In response, France had pacey striker Loko run wide into the channels while Christian Karembeu and Youri Djorkaeff showed dynamic movement from their wide roles to replace him centrally when needed. Central midfielder Zidane also joined the attack to good effect consistently.
In the 24th minute, an eye catching phase of play from France saw them threaten to open the scoring. Djorkaeff cut the ball back to Karembeu, who lifted the ball to Loko and the striker took a touch before setting the ball up for Vincent Guerin. Midfielder Guerin made good contact with a low, rasping drive that was tipped around the goalpost by a diving Andoni Zubizarreta. France were starting to gain the upper hand, and fired another warning shot across the Spanish bow when Zidane collected a throw in before spinning and blazing a shot wide.
In central midfield, the 3 v 2 advantage afforded to France was a key factor in shaping the game. Whereas France showed slick patterns to find the extra man and also move the ball to their wingers, Spain struggled to break lines and provide their front pair with quality service to feet, limiting most attacks to Caminero winning aerial challenges, or more often simply seeing the ball turned over.
Spain did manage to create a chance before halftime, when right back Otero pushed forward to good effect and squared the ball to Luis Enrique, only to see Enrique’s shot drift harmlessly into the arms of French goalkeeper Bernard Lama.
The second half started in a similar pattern to the first, and it was the extra man in the French midfield that would play an important role in breaking the deadlock. Didier Deschamps stepped up to intercept a wayward pass and move the ball to Karembeu. Sampdoria winger Karembeu looked up and chipped a precise pass over the Spanish back line and into the path of Djorkaeff who executed a neat touch and finish.
Stung by the French goal, Spanish coach Clemente responded by subbing his entire right flank before the hour mark. Otero and Enrique were withdrawn, and replaced by Javier Manjarin and Kiko, both of whom would later prove important substitutions. Caminero dropped back into midfield after the reshuffle, with Kiko deployed as a striker.
Spain showed signs of life after the changes, and won a free kick when fullback Sergi was fouled by Karembeu. Hierro was presented with the chance but blasted his shot high over Lama’s crossbar.
France showed they were still a threat with a slick move at the other end, seeing Loko and Djorkaeff combined before setting up Zidane to curl his shot wide of the target.
Soon after, France almost reignited the connection for the opening goal. Karembeu played in Djorkaeff, but this time Djorkaeff was dragged down on the edge of the area by Lopez. Zidane stepped up to take the free kick, but his effort hit a FRench player on the end of the wall and drifted harmlessly out for a goal kick.
In the 74th minute, Jacquet flexed the French strength in depth by subbing off Loko, and sending on Dugarry, the game winner from France’s opener.
Spain continued to push for an equalizer and won a wide free kick in the 78th minute when Alfonso was brought down by Lizarazu. The crossed free kick found Abelardo open in the back post area, but the defenders powerful strike was well help by Lama. The Spanish threat continued as Caminero played in substitute Kiko, but the striker’s whipped ball across the face of goal cleared everyone and went out for a goal kick.
France remained a threat on the counter and Djorkaeff was played in down the left before hanging a cross up to the back post area, Dugarry met the cross but his header back across goal sailed wide of the post.
Spain continued to chase the goal that would level matters, and in the 83rd minute striker Julio Salinas was sent on in place of Alfonso. Spain would find the equalizer three minutes later, and the subs introduced by Clemente would play a key role.
A free kick from just inside the Spanish half was launched into the box, and a weak headed clearance by Blanc was seized upon by Kiko. The striker’s cross was deflected by Deschamp but met by fellow substitute Manjarin at the back post, who provided a neat touch and square ball for Caminero to stride onto and dispatch a neat one touch finish past Lama.
France rallied to win a 90th minute corner, but Desailly’s looping header was comfortably plucked out of the air by Zubizarreta and the points were split after an entertaining affair.
France would enter the final group game in control of their own destiny, knowing a win over Bulgaria would see them advance as group winners. A draw would see them worst case enter a three way tie breaker for qualification if Spain could beat Romania, with a defeat possibly seeing them eliminated provided Spain got three points.
Coach Jacquet would have a decision to make at striker, with both Loko and Dugarry showing quality during the time they had spent at forward so far. Lizarazu impressed during this game and was a favorite to retain his spot over Di Meco for the crunch group decider.
Spain went into their final group game knowing only a win would be good enough to make the last eight. A defeat for either France or Bulgaria would see them qualify in second place, whereas a France v Bulgaria draw could force a three way tie breaker.
Striker Kiko performed well as an impact sub during this game, and would have a strong argument to start at striker in the upcoming must win Romania game.
48’ FRA Youri Djorkaeff (Christian Karembeu) 1-0
85’ SPA Jose Luis Caminero (Javier Manjarin) 1-1
MAN OF THE MATCH
#19 LM Christian Karembeu (France) – Midfielder Karenbeu was at the heart of matters as France dominated possession for large spells of the game. Drifting central to good effect, it was his measured through ball to opposite winger Djorkaeff that created the opening goal.
3: LM Christian Karembeu – Man of the Match.
2: RM Youri Djorkaeff – Scorer of France’s lone goal and an influential figure on the attacking end throughout the game.
1: LD Bixente Lizarazu – Tough tackling defender who joined the attack to good effect with powerful runs forward to support Djorkaeff.
3: CF Jose Luis Caminero – Showed aerial power at forward before dropping back to midfield to dictate play and also burst forward to net a late equalizer.
2: GK Andoni Zubizarreta – Set the table for Spain’s late comeback by keeping the score at 1-0 with a series of saves.
1: CF Kiko – DId not play for long, but tilted the game during his cameo with powerful running and a cross that led to the goal to level matters.