Govou sinks Japan
By James Pearson. Last Updated: January 1, 1970 1:00am
FRANCE moved top of Group A in the Confederations Cup following a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Japan thanks to goals from Robert Pires and Sidney Govou.
Japan had led the group following their convincing 3-0 win over New Zealand and were unlucky not get anything out of their clash against the former World Champions.
Shunsuke Nakamura tested Manchester United keeper Fabien Barthez with an early free-kick, while at the other end Govou went close with a bullet header but failed to hit the target.
France were ahead, somewhat fortuitously, before the break when they were handed a penalty after Junichi Inamoto was adjudged to have fouled William Gallas in the penalty area.
Stand-in skipper, Robert Pires, captaining his country for the first time, make no mistake from the spot beating Seigo Narazaki from 12-yards out.
Just before the hour mark the visitors were level through Nakamura, who curled home a lovely left-footed free-kick that left Barthez with no chance.
The goal was no more than the Asian side deserved, as they battled and probed intensely throughout the second period.
Within minutes France were back ahead when Mikael Silvestre superbly found Govou who controlled and fired home from close-range for an instant reply.
Japan were unlucky to lose as Yasuhito Endo firstly saw his free-kick crash off the cross bar, while Nakamura was inches away with a 20-yards pile-driver.
The home side finished with only 10-men after Willy Sagnol was shown the straight red card for a late challenge on Hidetoshi Nakata.