Top 100 World Cup Moments (From the Aussie P.O.V.): 81-Another French Football Farce (1993)


November 17 1993 isn’t a date that the French will hold as dear to their hearts. It was the date in which Les Blues and Bulgaria would fight it out to see who would qualify with Sweden in their group and to get to go to USA ’94.

The French had failed to get to Italia ’90 under now UEFA boss Michel Platini and were now coached by Gerard Houllier who had brought in some of the greatest and most fractured talent that they had ever had. Eric Cantona, David Ginola and the brilliant veteran Jean-Pierre Papin were in the squad along with future World Cup winners Manu Petit, Marcel Desially, Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc. The French only had to win one of their last two games but a 3-2 loss at home to the lowly Israel (Israel’s only win in the entire campaign) had put them in big trouble but still only needed a draw to get through.

The Bulgarians had to win the match and it didn’t help their cause when Cantona scored from close range on the half hour. The Bulgarians dug deep and Kostadinov equalized minutes later to keep them hanging in there. France went in to lock down as the game progressed with their experienced stars dictating the pace and making the Bulgarians chase.

With Ginola on as a sub those in the Parc De Princes in Paris were getting ready to pop champagne and truly test how much animosity there was between them and the Americans. France won a free kick near the Bulgarian area with seconds to go and result seemingly done. Any player in their right mind defending a score like this would take the free kick in to the corner and play for time but not Ginola. Ginola sent an audacious free kick over the area to try and find Cantona which cleared everybody and went straight to a Bulgarian player. The ball was passed on the right and found Kostadinov on the break who roared down the right and beat three defenders before lashing a shot past the keeper and in to the roof of the net, the goal being an unbelievably dramatic winner.

Shock and numbness for the French in the stadium (the look on Platini’s face..priceless), celebrations for the Bulgarian players and the coaching staff. France tried to gain some kind of miracle to outdo the Bulgarian miracle straight from the kick off but there wasn’t even time for that, the ref blew fulltime and Bulgaria were through as soon as they restarted the game. The great French side featuring so much talent would be watching back home with the AC Milan legend Papin only ever making it to one World Cup (86).

In the aftermath Houllier immediately blamed Ginola for his stupidity in not holding on to the ball. According to Houllier Ginola had become ‘the murderer of the French team’, this spat has continued to this day between the two. Stories also came out that Ginola had been confronted by Cantona before the match because of comments made by the former that he deserved to the be in the starting XI instead of Eric, this wouldn’t have helped team harmony.

Regardless of who was to blame it was obvious that this mess would be sorted out with a good lot of sackings and Houllier was shown the door by the French FA. Houllier’s assistant Aime Jacquet was given the job and set about developing youth instead of hanging on to national side white ants like Cantona and Ginola. Neither Cantona or Ginola made it in to the French squad for a meaningful match again and France would go on to make the quarter finals of Euro 96 and then win France 98 with a host of stars from what would turn out to be a golden generation.

A memorable moment that makes Australians feel better when they see ‘Iranian incidents’ can happen to other countries in the bid to qualify for a World Cup.

About Dennis Gedling

RTR FM Presenter. Glory Guerrillas Producer and Co-Host. Contributer to Football Nation Radio and Football West. Worships at the feet of the mighty Cats, Socceroos, Matildas, West Perth, Glory and Glasgow's Green and White most of the time.

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