Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse helped France to avoid an upset in a friendly match against Costa Rica.
Costa Rica were 2-0 up at half-time, with Anelka pulling one back for France just after the break. Cisse came on for Anelka after 71 minutes and scored the equaliser on 80 minutes. Henry scored the winner for France with two minutes to go.
France’s next match is another friendly, against World Cup hosts Germany this coming weekend.
The night before that sees France’s under-21 side take on England’s youngsters in a UEFA European Championship play-off. Included in the French squad is Liverpool’s Florent Sinama-Pongolle.
Sinama-Pongolle was nearly lured away back to France during the close-season, to join Gerrard Houllier. Flo had been out injured and Houllier was said to have had talks with agents with a view of getting one of his own signings to join him in France in his new role. As soon Rafa Benitez heard about this he put Flo into the next European game squad, and brought him on as sub to ensure he was cup-tied and so show his intent to keep the youngster.
Flo has been at Anfield in 2003 along with Anthony Le Tallec, with great hope as to his future potential. Rafa sees him as still being an important member of his squad, and knows he’s got youth on his side in order to become a first-team regular. Flo’s attitude is said to be exceptional, always willing to learn and take on board whatever decisions the manager makes about him.
One of these decisions has seen Flo played at right-wing a couple of times, and the player is happy just to be in the side. He’s seen as an out-and-out striker in France, but not at Anfield, as he told Uefa’s website: "In England I’m not really seen as a scorer. People look at me as a useful attacking player – someone who can fill in and do a job when necessary. When I play for Les Espoirs I play as a striker. People in France still regard me as a scorer and as far as I’m concerned that’s what I am."
Flo was a hero in the Carling Cup tie against Spurs last season at White Hart Lane. He scored the equaliser after 117 minutes and then got the winning penalty in the shootout. The venue for Friday’s play-off is White Hart Lane and Flo will be hoping to continue his success at that stadium.
Flo feels he’s improved immensely by playing in England: "The game is much more physical, so I’ve had to become more aggressive, I’ve built up my strength and now I’m much better with my back to goal. I’ve also improved my play carrying the ball forward. We have some great strikers at Liverpool, but all of us have different qualities. I learn a huge amount from Fernando Morientes, for example. His game is all about intelligence and, of course, talent. His movement is superb and he always knows whether to slow play down or accelerate. But I also admire Peter Crouch. When you look at him, you think he must be a bit clumsy, but it’s the exact opposite. He’s brilliant with the ball at his feet and his hold-up play is amazing. The guy’s only young yet he’s starting games for Liverpool and England. He’s a real asset for us."
Great praise from the youngster, but he reserved the most praise for his friend and countryman Djibril Cissé: "He’s an example for me – I used to look up to him when he was at Auxerre, but now we’re mates. He’s a pure goalscorer. When he gets the ball within range of goal, he’ll do anything to try to score."
England’s likely goalkeeper for the match is Flo’s team-mate Scott Carson. The second leg is on November 15th in Nancy.
England v France – UEFA Euro U21 Championship Play-Off, First-Leg.
White Hart Lane – 7.30pm, 11 November 2005
France v England – UEFA Euro U21 Championship Play-Off, Second-Leg
Stade Marcel Picot, Nancy – 8.00pm, 15 November 2005