Confederations Cup Preview: France v Colombia
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France open their Confederations Cup defence against Colombia looking to right the wrongs of the last World Cup.
Les Bleus tumbled out at the group stages without scoring a goal, and only registering one point.
In that tournament they had to do without the injured Zinedine Zidane for the most part, and the Real Madrid man want be present here, either, as the Spanish season has not yet finished. Indeed, midfield is a problem position for coach Jacques Santini who must also do without Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele and Emmanuel Petit.
France have not always found South American sides an easy proposition. In the 1998 World Cup they needed a golden goal to get past Paraguay after a 0-0 draw in normal time, while last year in Japan and Korea they were held to a goal-less draw by Uruguay. A friendly defeat to Chile was sandwiched in the middle.
Colombia enter the 2003 Confederations Cup as the 2001 Copa America champions, but have not scored a goal in over a year, since a 1-2 loss to Mexico. Defensively, however, the South American champions have been stout having given up only one goal in the past five matches. Having missed out on the 2002 World Cup Colombia will be looking for a good showing this month in France as a springboard into 2006 CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying.
France Last Five (Most Recent First): WWLWW
In the Euro 2004 qualifiers, Malta have been hammered 4-0 and 6-0, while Santini's men also secured a 2-1 win against Israel. In friendlies, Les Bleus have taken care of Yugoslavia and Egypt, but suffered a 2-0 home defeat to the Czech Republic.
Colombia Last Five (most recent first): DDDDL
As stated above goal scoring has been the issue for Colombia manager Francisco Maturana, and Cruzeiro's 31-year old Victor Hugo Aristizabal has been brought in to fix the problem. On the defensive side of the ball Maturana's men have not conceded a goal since November of last year. Not a surprise when you have players like Ivan Cordoba, Mario Yepes and Gerardo Bedoya marshalling the defense. In 2003 scoreless draws have come against the likes of Ecuador, Honduras, South Korea and Mexico.
France: Sochaux youngster Benoit Pedretti should get the nod to play alongside Olivier Dacourt in central midfield. Robert Pires is likely to start from the bench, while Djibril Cisse will partner Henry in attack.
Colombia: Defender Gerardo Bedoya has been cleared to play in this FIFA event, despite being hit with a lengthy ban by the CSF after elbowing a referee during his club's elimination from the Libertadores Cup. The ban extends only to CSF competitions. In addition goalkeeper Oscar Cordoba and defender Mario Yepes have met the requirements of the Colombian medical team for the France match after suffering from a bum knee and ankle respectively. It appears Deportes Tolima striker Elson Becerra will get the nod to start alongside Aristizabal and Geovanny Hernandez in the attack as Maturana plans to employ a 4-3-3 against the defending champions.
France: Thierry Henry
The Arsenal striker is determined to do well in this tournament after missing out on the last Confederations Cup.
COLOMBIA: Ivan Cordoba
A couple weeks ago the Inter defenseman had been rumored to be headed to Roma as part of a swap deal, but last week the Milan club stated their intentions to keep the Colombian skipper. Cordoba will face the tall task of preventing Thierry Henry from finding the back of the net on Wednesday. To do is a Herculean task for most, but given the experience of Cordoba if anyone slow down the Frenchman it is Cordoba.
France (4-4-2): Barthez; Thuram, Mexes, Desailly, Lizarazu; Wiltord, Dacourt, Pedretti, Kapo; Ciss? Henry
COLOMBIA (4-3-3): Oscar Cordoba; Martinez, Iv Cordoba, Yepes, Bedoya; Velasquez, Lopez, PatiãÄ; Hernandez, Aristizabal, Becerra
The last time these two sides met, Colombia triumphed 3-1 in Fort De-France.
Stewart Coggin & Andrew Giffen
good luck, cordoba...good luck colombia...