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Le Miserable: Zizou?s end is nigh

It could have been the most poignant moment of this World Cup, but it passed quietly, writes Dhiman Sarkar.

india Updated: Jun 20, 2006 03:23 IST

It could have been the most poignant moment of this World Cup, but it passed quietly, drowned in the euphoria of South Korea's late equaliser. One of football's most glorious chapters may have ended here when David Trezeguet substituted Zinedine Zidane deep in second-half stoppage time. 

By then, Zidane had seen a second yellow card and if France don't progress beyond the group stage, it will be adieu Zizou, with the bald genius not even on the bench. Period. Like against Paraguay in 1998, Zidane will have to bank on his teammates for an extension of his career.

After a rousing send-off at the Bernabeu, Zidane could only watch South Korea take the last bow at the sold-out Zentral Stadion on Sunday night. It could have been different had Thierry Henry stroked his only killer pass of the match past Jae Woon Lee. Following that miss, and perhaps frustrated by his poor form, Zidane needlessly pushed Chul Young Kim and got a booking. 

This was after Park Ji Sung's 81st minute goal had cancelled out Henry's ninth minute strike. So, though France scored their first goal of the millennium in the finals, they only had a second straight draw to show for from Group G, which South Korea continue to lead. Patrick Vieira's header looked good for goal to everyone apart from Mexican referee Benito Archundia, so that doesn't count.

Everything - a lifeline for Zidane included - now hinges on what happens in Cologne and Hanover, where Group E winds up on Friday.

Introducing Seol Ki Hyeon livened up South Korea a bit but till very late in the game, the most lively South Korean move was the swaying by a little red sea in one corner of the full 43,000 capacity turnout. With chants of Dae Haan Min Goo (Republic of Korea) and drumbeats, they were trying their best to work up some enthusiasm among the red shirts.

The team's reply seemed as energetic as a stifled yawn for most of the match, but they woke up in time - nine minutes from time, actually, when Jin Jae Cho defied gravity to head down a cross from the right and Park flung out his right leg out to make the connection.

As coach Dick Advocaat had predicted, they stayed up late and partied, and the whole country probably won't go to sleep for some time to come.       

The only other time South Korea got a close look at Fabien Barthez was when Jin Dong Kim tried a weak header. Opportunistic strikes cancelling each other apart, there wasn't much worthwhile in a match between the former champions and the semi-finalist of the last edition.

France looked solid for most of the game, pushing their opponents back and taking control. But this bunch of ageing warriors looked too blunt in front of the goal to nurture realistic hopes of staying in Germany next month. Vieira's late blast that sailed over encapsulated their finishing problems. Frank Ribery added some spark to a team that otherwise looked mechanical, but his presence wasn't enough.  

Henry ended an eight-year wait for a French goal at the finals, sneaking in to meet Sylvain Wiltord's forward charge and placing the ball past Lee. Vieira's goal was surprisingly not given before he found Henry with a lovely diagonal drive but Pyo Young Lee stuck out a leg in time.

Florent Malouda wasted his hard work with tardy shooting once in each half but, along with Henry and Wiltord, kept the South Korean defensive trio of Dong Jin Kim, Kim Young Chul and Chun Soo Lee busy.

South Korea looked too circumspect to really push at the French defence, which had a combined age of 119, Lilian Thuram and Willy Sagnol making up for 64 of those years. Four red shirts in the middle couldn't really get past Vieira and Claude Makelele too
Even after Hyeon came on, South Korea struggled to get the numbers in front.

But as the old legs got weary, Sung managed a spark that got a nation on song.