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Thursday, 4 April, 2002, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
France: Seductive and deadly
Thierry Henry is congratulated after scoring a magnificent goal
France swept Scotland aside in the Stade de France

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Easter is a time for reflection, but not on this occasion the thorny question of religion.

There is another issue that will tax just as many brains around the globe over the next few weeks - who will rule the football world after the 2002 World Cup?

Or, perhaps more appropriately, can anyone stop the French star shining once more?

Open Quote
Scotland weren't bad - it was just that France were much better
Close Quote

After witnessing their breathtaking demolition of Scotland in the Stade de France, one has to conclude that Les Bleus look invincible.

Sure, the experimental Scotland defence included an 18-year-old and a 20-year-old still in the embryonic stage of their club careers, never mind competing at international level.

True, a side still organised by the more conservative former manager, Craig Brown, would have probably saved the blushes caused by a 5-0 defeat.

But there is no denying that, in their present form, the French are pure poetry in motion.

And, in these days when it is said that there is no such thing as an easy international, one has to be impressed when a side cruises into a 4-0 lead by half-time and still increases their advantage after switching down a couple of gears in the second half.

Scotland's Dominic Matteo tries to get to grips with Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane (left) is the French messiah

In Zinedine Zidane, they have a messiah-like character whose silky skills appear to have come direct from whatever god you may choose to follow.

A more cynical opponent might have tried to man-mark the midfield maestro out of the game.

But, even if that tactic was to be successful, others such as Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet only need a sniff of the goal to produce the kind of stunning finishing that destroyed the Scots.

Scotland boss Berti Vogts said his team should have stuck the old-fashioned boot in.

Who can forget his German countryman Harald Schumacher doing even more than that to halt Patrick Batiston and a previous French incarnation taking their deserved place in the history books?

This time, Argentina and Italy are the ones with the cynicism combined with the skill that might knock the favourites out their graceful stride.

Familiarity with Premiership-based French players could give a talented England squad some hope, too.

Vincent Candela challenges Scotland's Neil McCann
Vincent Candela is a talented newcomer

But perhaps the 30-something status of many of Roger Lemerre's squad will be their biggest obstacle during the month-long extravaganza.

Like Pele in 1970, it is their chance of a fitting swansong.

His famous Brazilian side mastered the world - and boosted football's popularity - by making the ball their slave.

The French treat the ball as their lover, caressing it towards an explosive climax.

They have the opportunity to seduce the watching millions - including many with only a passing interest in the game - with the subtlety, power and deadly simplicity of their play.

As my girlfriend's mum remarked: "Scotland weren't bad. It was just that the French were much better.

"The way they danced around our boys, it was like watching ballet."

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