Between France and England, decades of sporting rivalries

Every year, it’s impossible for oval ball fans to skip this event. For more than a hundred years, the “Crunch“, the meeting between the French and the English between the rugby posts during the Six Nations Tournament, exacerbates the historic rivalry between the two countries separated by the Channel.

If in football the spirit of competition is not as lively, several confrontations between the two selections have taken place, in particular in the World Cup where the outcome has systematically been favorable to the “perfidious Albion”. While the France team is playing its place in the semi-finals of the 2022 World Cup against the “Three Lions”, a look back at some significant sporting encounters between French and English.

English winners of the duels in the Football World Cup

On Saturday, France will have the opportunity to cast out its demons and win its first match in the World Cup against the English neighbor. Twice, the Blues have lost in the past, each time during the group stages. The first time in 1966, with a score of 2-0, in London, in a World Cup where the English won their one and only star.

The second confrontation, in 1982 in Bilbao, ended in a 3-1 score in favor of the Three Lions. The French team, however better armed on paper with Michel Platini, Marius Trésor and Alain Giresse in its ranks, still does not manage to get the best of its historical rival.

1977, a rugby match that turns into a butcher’s shop

It’s been a century that French and English face each other in international football competitions. But their rivalry is sublime oval ball in hand. Sometimes to the point of degenerating. On February 19, 1977, the two teams faced each other in the English stadium of Twinckenham on the occasion of the Five Nations Tournament (Italy only joined in 2000).

This match remains without doubt one of the roughest on the European scene. Even before kick-off, the tone is set: the French are booed and are the target of spitting. Fouls rained down throughout the game. English newspapers occasionally rename the XV of France “the savage horde”. The Blues won with a narrow score of 4 to 3 (a try was worth 4 points at the time) and won the competition.

In 1991, “the test of the century”

If the “Crunch” of 1991 gave birth to an English victory (21-19), it is a French action that remains in the memories. Following a missed penalty, Frenchman Pierre Berbizier recovers the ball. Rather than flattening him in his in-goal, he alerts his captain Serge Blanco who rushes and passes the ball, which after two passes arrives in the hands of Didier Camberabero. He lobbed a defender and at the end of a dazzling acceleration sent a pass to the foot for Philippe Saint-André who only had to register the try between the posts, after an action of 110 meters. Even the English supporters applaud.

In total, French and English have been opposed 109 times during the Six Nations Tournament. The record remains in favor of the British: 60 wins against 42 and seven draws. Symbol of historical English domination: the Blues have not won a single match at Twickenham for fifteen years. The last victory dates back to 2005 when France, coached by Bernard Laporte, snatched a narrow victory, 18 to 17.

Euro 2004, Zidane changes the course of the match

On this Sunday, June 13, 2004, French footballers are on the verge of elimination. Led 1-0 against the English selection, the Blues are in a bad position, in stoppage time in the round of 16 of the European championship which took place that year in Lisbon.

A foul committed by the Three Lions at the entrance to the surface is about to change the course of the match. Zinédine Zidane, number 10 in the back, seizes the ball to take the free kick, which he places on the right of the goal, out of reach of David James. 1-1.

As both teams headed straight for extra time, an ill-fitting pass from Frank Lampard for his keeper was intercepted by Blues star striker Thierry Henry. The latter scored the winning goal in the last seconds of the match, reversing the course of a match that seemed to have escaped France. This will not prevent the defeat of the Blues in the quarter-finals against Greece, future winner of the tournament (1-0).


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