France's 4-0 Rout of Saudi Arabia is Costly
By Raf Casert
Thursday, June 18, 1998; 5:26 p.m. EDT
It was a bittersweet victory for the French, who lost striker Christophe Dugarry to a torn hamstring and had their most talented player, Zinedine Zidane, ejected as part of a wave of red cards that hit the tournament Thursday. Zidane will be automatically suspended for France's next match against Denmark, a game that could decide seeding for the second round.
With the defeat, Saudi Arabia became the first team eliminated from the tournament. The Saudis, who went to the second round four years ago, also lost to Denmark, while France beat South Africa.
Thierry Henry scored in the 36th and 77th minutes; substitute David Trezeguet, who took Dugarry's place, connected in the 68th; and Bixente Lizarazu in the 85th. The first two goals came when the French were playing 11-on-10 following Saudi defender Mohammed al-Khilaiwi's ejection in the 19th minute.
Al-Khilaiwi's red card was given for a tackle on Lizarazu as the French defender raced after the ball down the left sideline. The tackle looked spectacular because of the speed of Lizarazu, who tumbled and nearly landed on a bird settled on the grass beyond the end line.
But Al-Khilaiwi barely touched the Frenchman.
Zidane was expelled for stepping on Fuad Amin's hip after he tackled the Saudi midfielder in the 70th minute. Again, it seemed an inoffensive, unintentional foul.
The tough stand from Mexican referee Arturo Brizio, who also issued four yellow cards for seemingly minor offenses, came one day after FIFA president Sepp Blatter and World Cup organizing committee chairman Michel Platini said referees weren't following a pre-tournament dictate that rough play especially foul tackles from behind be severely punished. Three players were ejected and seven yellow cards issued in Denmark's 1-1 draw with South Africa earlier Thursday.
Henry's first goal came after a nice exchange between Zidane and Lizarazu, with Zidane supplying the final pass for an unmarked Henry to shoot past goalkeeper Mohammed al-Daeyea.
With the Saudis a man down, it was inevitable that France would score again. It happened when al-Daeyea let Lilian Thuram's cross go through his hands, Trezeguet putting home the easy header.
Henry outraced the Saudi defense and put his shot off the near post for his second goal, his third of the tournament.
© Copyright 1998 The Associated Press