LONDON–YEREVAN (Reuters–Noyan Tapan)–France looked like anything but a world champion as it limped to a 3-2 victory in Armenia on Wednesday but it could still finish in the top two of an incredibly tight Euro 2000 group four.
Armenia had won only one of their qualifiers–and that was against Andorra–but they took a shock lead through Karapet Mikaelyan after six minutes.
A Youri Djorkaeff penalty in the first half injury time restored French hopes and Zinedine Zidane put them ahead with a brilliant shot on the turn after 67 minutes.
Lilian Laslandes made it 3-1 soon after but–after French substitute Frederic Dehu had been sent off–Armen Shakgheldyan pulled one back with a last-minute penalty.
France has one game left–at home to Iceland–where victory would ensure at least a place in the top two.
World soccer champion France arrived in Yerevan Tuesday on the eve of their Euro-2000 qualifier against Armenia–the Noyan Tapan news agency reported.
Four planes landed at Zvartnots Airport on September 7 carrying the team and numerous journalists and guests accompanying them–including a group of Diasporan Armenia’s–as well as participants in the rally to be held on September 9. Renowned French Armenian midfield Youri Djorkaeff was given a warm reception.
In other French/Armenian sports–the Provance Armenie motor rally commenced in Yerevan’s Republic Square on September 8. The rally was organized through the combined efforts of the Provance Armenie-Marseilles organization and the Federation of Motor Sports of Armenia. The goal of the rally is to promote the development of motor transport in Armenia.
Mayor of Marseilles Karo Hovsepian and French motor sport master–world champion Rene Mege greeted the participants and said this event was proof of the friendship between the French and Armenian peoples. According to them–the rally marks the beginning of a new stage in friendly relations between the two nations.
President of the Federation of Motor Sports of Armenia Mkrtich Piltoyan said that nine cars are participating in the rally–with only one crew from Armenia. The escort of cars will begin in Yerevan and pass through several Armenian provinces and return to the capital by dawn where a prize awarding ceremony was to be held at Hrazdan Stadium. Despite the earlier arrangemen’s–Charles Aznavour and Jean-Paul Belmondo could not participate in the rally. French football squad midfield Youri Djorkaeff was not present at the opening ceremony because of the warm-ups in preparation for the Armenia-France qualifier. His father Jean Djorkaeff attended in his place.
A Marseilles-Yerevan motor race is planned to be organized next year to contribute to the development of motor sports in Armenia.