Toulon Day Two: Injury time winners for France and Chile

4 06 2009

bakarysakoDay Two of the Toulon Tournament was low on goals but high on intrigue and drama. Portugal’s wastefulness in front of goal came back to haunt them as they lost at the death to a well-fancied Chilean team, before France struggled against a surprisingly resolute Qatar team, winning with a dramatic last-touch goal from Bakary Sako.

On paper, the Portuguese squad might appear weak, with few star names and a few players with something to prove. Chile come back to Toulon having been a revelation in last year’s competition, losing the Final to Italy. However, it was the Iberians who impressed most on the day, but their profligacy in front of goal cost them dear. The first half was a tight, battling affair where neither side managed to make a breakthrough, but the second half was a complete change, with action in front of goal and a Portuguese siege on the Chilean goal.

Forward Yazalde had the best of the chances, the first of them forcing a fine reaction save from the talented Christopher Toselli, who stuck out a leg whilst going the wrong way to turn the effort past the post. The rest of the half continued in the same fashion, with Sporting CP midfielder Adrien pulling the strings despite some rough tactics from a struggling Chilean team. Midfielder Ukra hit a 20-yard effort off the post and with Toselli sprawled out of position, Yazalde had an open goal from the rebound. Instead of doing the easy thing and scoring, he effectively passed the ball back to the Chile stopper and spurned a major opportunity.

Chile’s forward forways were few and far between but they had a penalty appeal when Andre Pinto appeared to push Gómez, but the collision was clumsy and the Chilean was penalised for a late challenge on the goalkeeper. At the other end substitute Jose Candeias showed good tenacity to get up from a tackle and retain possession before spinning and rattling a 25-yard effort off the other post. It was destined not to be their day, and as the clock ticked into time added on, Chile cut their opponents apart. Gerson Martinez found himself through on goal and despite a poor attempt, the ball squirmed through the legs of Rui Patrício and over the line for the sole goal.

Yet, it wasn’t over. As Chile celebrated a bit too long, Portugal went down the other end and had themselves another chance to score. A cross from the right went all the way across the goalmouth and with Toselli again missing, Candeias had the goal gaping. He didn’t connect well, the ball was cleared off the line, and Chile held on for a vital win.

The evening game saw the debut of the host nation, in their 32nd Toulon Tournament, against debutants Qatar. A high-scoring, one-sided affair was expected, with Les Bleus featuring Ligue Une regulars in Mamadou Sakho, Herold Goulon and Gabriel Obertan. But despite a lot of possession and chances, France struggled to make gains, and Qatar’s work rate was tremendous, closing down and making last ditch blocks.

Jires Kembo-Ekoto had the first real chance with an acrobatic overhead kick which just went over, and Yatabare sent a tame volley at goal, but proper clear-cut chances were few and far between. Obertan’s skill and inventiveness on the right was impressive but there was too much possession without a cutting edge. To say France were below-par would be fair, but Qatar’s performance was commendable and they certainly put their names on the map.

As the game went into the second half they had further good moments, but there was never a chance which really worried goalkeeper Jumah. France coach Eric Mombaerts threw on David N’Gog and Younousse Sankharé to find a goal, but they continued to toil in the face of relentless running and defending from Qatar. The debutants, led by an outstanding effort by Fadhi Omar, looked for all the world to be in for a very deserved point. That was until the 82nd minute, when deep into stoppage time France stole a winner.

Bakary Sako picked up the ball some 40 yards out and with little by way of option and time running out, he unleashed a speculative left-footed effort. The power on the strike caught Jumah by surprise and as it bounced in front of him, went threw his legs and into the back of the net. Sako was swamped by jubilant teammates, knowing they’d just got out of jail. Qatar were crushed, and at full time in defeat one or two of their players lost their tempers, apparently in the face of provocation from Kembo-Ekoto. France know they were lucky tonight, whilst Qatar can go into Saturday’s games with confidence they can get a positive result.

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