The fourth day of the tournament saw the Group B teams complete their second round of games, as France sealed a Semi Final place with a tight win against Portugal before they were joined by Chile, who dismantled Qatar 3-0.
France and Portugal opened proceedings in scorching weather at the Stade Mayol, with the hosts making key changes in midfield after their poor outing against Qatar. Etienne Capoue, Younousse Sankharé and Moussa Sissoko all came into the middle of the park with David N’Gog up front to try and inject some attacking form into their game. It worked early, with Sankharé’s drive and N’Gog’s movement and work rate causing early problems for the Portuguese. At the other end, Jose Candeias often found space out wide, but the end product was poor and didn’t test goalkeeper Johnny Placide.
Full-back Garry Bocaly was also impressing, and his 25-yard rocket was tipped away well by Rui Patrício for the first real save of the match. His clean sheet didn’t last long though, as Les Bleus took the lead after 27 minutes. A left-footed inswinging corner went into the near post and nodding it in on the run, completely unmarked, was Sankharé. It was a deserved lead, but one which should have only stood for less than sixty seconds, as Candeias immediately found himself one on one with Placide. But not for the first time the winger was found wanting in the composure department and simply drove his shot high and wide.
Portugal brought on striker Yazalde for the second half but after some early pressure, they once again took the back seat to the hosts. Another inswinging corner found an unmarked blue shirt but this time Mamadou Sakho somehow missed with the goal gaping. With that chance spurned, the half took on a scrappy look, with Portugal desperate to score to keep their tournament alive but never massively threatening a French team who were snuffing out their forays forward. At the other end, French corners kept causing endless problems and it was captain Capoue’s turn to have a free header, which was straight at Rui Patrício.
Fabio Coentrao had a late penalty appeal successfully turned down and France comfortably held on to seal their Semi Final place, whilst Portugal are eliminated.
Chile went into their game with Qatar knowing a win would also seal them a Semi-Final berth, and started well against a team who surprised so many with their fine battling performance against France. The South Americans should have taken the lead on eight minutes when a long ball into the area caused problems for the Qatari defence but Gomez and Vargas struggled to find the ball and it was eventually prodded wide.
Still, the South Americans continued to enjoy the majority of the possession, and after some fine invention from Vargas saw him put an effort just wide, they took the lead midway through the first half. Medel played a lovely ball in behind the Qatari right-back, which found Mena in space. He drilled a ball across the six yard box and when goalkeeper Ghaith Jumah missed it, Vargas stopped to head into an empty net. It signalled a flood of Chilean attacking and Cristobal Jorquera really should have made it 2-0 when given time and space from Vargas’ cutback, but he didn’t strike it cleanly and it trundled wide of the post.
To their credit, Qatar came out for the second half with a renewed vigour and effort and began to assert themselves more like they did against France. Ten minutes into the second half they had their best moment, a 40-yard free kick which stayed low and forced a good save from Christopher Toselli. But, as is the way, their improvement was all for nothing, as Chile’s first real chance of the second half was converted, by that man Vargas again. Medel’s through ball found a perfectly timed run by the lime green boot-wearing number 7, and he needed just one touch to stroke it past Jumah.
It was the superior creativity of the Chileans which was ultimately the difference though, and fifteen minutes from time it was all summed it up. A poor backpass played Saoud Khames in, and he rounded Toselli. With the goal gaping, he managed to roll his left-footed effort wide. Less than thirty seconds later Jorquera freed Gerson Martinez through the middle at the other end, and he found the back of the net to seal his country’s place in the Semi Finals.
Coach Ivo Basay used the remaining ten or so minutes to rest up a couple of key players with the game in the bag, and once again Qatari tempers flared with things going against them, but it was all really quite academic, with the scoreline a fair reflection of the gulf in class between the two countries.