France arrived in Korea and Japan for the 2001 Confederations Cup as world and European Champions and would add another trophy to their recent haul.
The tournament, featuring nations who were all current holders of titles in their own corner of the world, plus the hosts, acted as a ‘dry-run’ for the following year’s World Cup.
Les Bleus featured three players who will be playing for their country again at this summer’s inaugural Star Sixes competition at The O2: Robert Pirès, Marcel Desailly and Olivier Dacourt.
But it was Arsenal’s Pirès who was the shining light.
“We were very professional and did everything we could to win the tournament because we were on a good run after our victories in 1998 and 2000,” said Pirès. “If we were going, we were going to win it.”
After brushing aside co-hosts South Korea 5-0 in their opener, a surprise 1-0 defeat to Australia followed before they got back on track with a 4-0 win over Mexico. Pirès was on the scoresheet.
It took them into a semi-final showdown with Brazil, who they’d beaten in the 1998 World Cup Final in Paris. Pirès volleyed home a stylish first goal before the Samba Boys pegged them back through Ramon with half-time approaching.
Marcel Desailly’s second half header sealed the win and set up a final against the tournament’s other hosts, Japan. In front of 65,000 at the Yokohama International Stadium, Patrick Vieira got the only goal of the game after 30 minutes to secure victory and a clean sweep of the world, European and inter-continental titles.
Meanwhile Pirès’s impressive performances saw him scoop both the Golden Boot and player of the tournament awards. A truly magic moment for the France icon.