EURO'96. First Round. Group B. 18/06/1996.
FRA: Laurent Blanc (21), OG (Lubomir Penev, 62), Patrice Loko (89).
BUL: Hristo Stoichkov (68).
FRA: Lama 6; Thuram 6, BLANC 6.5, Desailly 6.5, Lizarazu 6; Karembeu 6.5, Deschamps 6, Zidane 5 (Pedros, 61), Guerin 6, Djorkaeff 6; Dugarry 5.5 (Loko, 70).
BUL: Mihailov 6; Kremenliev 5, Houbtschev 5, Ivanov 6, Cvetanov 5; Letchkov 6, Iankov 5.5 (Borimirov, 82), Balakov 5.5 (Donkov, 82), Iordanov 5; Penev 4, Stoichkov 6.5.
REFEREES: Dermot Gallacher (England) [Paul Durkin (England), 28].
AUDIENCE: 26.976, St. James' Park, Newcastle.
YELLOW CARDS: Desailly, Dugarry (France); Kremenliev, Ivanov (Bulgaria).
RED CARDS: NONE.
The seeding might be cruel, as I said before the start of the Championship. Yesterday, in a wonderful game with a lot of chances, Bulgaria lost and left England. As for me, I'd rather see Bulgaria in the quarterfinals instead of Spain; or, I'd better say, 3 teams deserved to be there from Group B instead of 2. But the destiny is different, Bulgaria is out. Being a considerable rival, it still was beaten by France in a great game of the latter.
The game was marked by an interesting event, the first of this kind in a major tournament I remember. After 28 minutes, the referee was substituted, as Dermot Gallacher suffered a leg injury. But, as usual nowadays, the refereeing level was high neither before the substitution nor after it.
The start was of Bulgaria, and the referee should've given a red card to Desailly fouling Stoichkov on his way to a net (3); instead, Desailly got only booked, and Stoichkov shot a great curved free kick from 20 meters, taken by Lama. Lama took a bounce of Stoichkov after 7 minutes, and Letchkov (11) passed Desailly and Lizarazu at the right wing and made a great pass to Penev who missed it from 2 meters! A shot of Iordanov went high (13), and 2 Bulgarian chances after 17 minutes were missed. Ivanov (18) tried his luck from a free kick, too bad.
The Frenchmen had their first opportunity after 13 minutes - Kremenliev got an unjustified yellow card after stopping Zidane in the frontiers of rules, and a free kick was awarded, shot superbly by Djorkaeff from 20 meters but parried in a fantastic way by Mihailov diving to his left. The second opportunity of theirs resulted in a goal - Youri Djorkaeff raised a corner kick, and Laurent Blanc (21) overjumped Penev to head it home. 1:0 to France.
The new referee, Paul Durkin, failed to get the game under his rule - a dirty conflict between Stoichkov and Desailly (31) resulted in no cards, and the foul of Deschamps on Ivanov (35) didn't see the French midfielder booked. Only a yellow card showed to Dugarry (and this one was undeserved!) managed to calm the moods. In between, Lama (23) denied Stoichkov after a brilliant pass of Letchkov, and the shot of Zidane (39) was badly aimed.
The last minutes were those of wonderful attacks. Dugarry (43) kidnapped the ball from Kremenliev and tried to bounce it above Mihailov from 16 meters; a breathtaking flight of "The Keeper Of The Tournament" by now made us see his stretched left hand sending it to a corner. In the last minute, Lama headed the ball away 20 meters from the net before Ivanov could reach it, and a speedy French counterattack started. It went finally to Djorkaeff, who misled a defender and shot (again, Revivo-styled action); Mihailov was in place and parried it properly.
In the 2nd half, we saw less opportunities, most of them of France. Mihailov managed to deny Djorkaeff (54), and later on (61), both Djorkaeff and Mihailov missed the ball which rolled towards the empty net; however, Ivanov was there to clear it away. But after another minute, it was in. Djorkaeff bounced a free kick from the left wing into the box, Blanc and Penev rushed to get the ball, and this time, Penev overjumped Blanc to head it ... to the left post of Mihailov and in! 2:0 to France.
In those seconds, Romania had a draw against Spain, but Bulgaria wanted to depend on itself. After 68 minutes of play, Stoichkov shot a bright free kick from 20 meters to beat Lama, the first goal in EC'96 scored from a free kick. 2:1.
The two last opportunities were of France. Loko made a great pass to Pedros (80) who performed a great scissors kick; however, Mihailov fisted it away. The last attack of France later on was resultive and finished the story - Karembeu passed a great ball to Loko, who passed Mihailov and shot it in. 3:1. The header of Guillermo Amor in a parallel game sent Bulgaria home.
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