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Swift Superstar Of The Week

Ronaldo may have garnered the headlines with his record-breaking 15th World Cup goal but there was one man who dragged a team struggling to fulfil its potential into the next round, and that was...

Swift Superstar Of The Week
| AP
Swift Superstar Of The Week
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
The world takes great delight in placing its sporting heroes on pedestals. When the inevitable decline comes, it makes their fall from grace all the more spectacular. Patrick Vieira will know the feeling. Not too long ago he was lauded as one of the world’s finest midfielders. But he has seen his once-untarnished reputation taken apart brick by brick as his influence waned for club Juventus and the French national team.

A man who dominated the English Premiership, Vieira was the marauding powerhouse in the centre of the pitch who led Arsenal FC to almost annual glory. He was captain of the first side to last a whole season unbeaten in the Premiership and won the World Cup in 1998 and European Cup two years later. Last summer’s move to Juventus, after nine fruitful years at Arsenal, saw him add the Serie A title to an already impressive collection of medals. But the Italian media and fans repeatedly questioned his benefit to the team and his confidence suffered. To the delight of his many admirers however, Vieira’s vital contribution to France’s resurgence in this World Cup signals there’s life in this ferocious dog yet.

With France missing talismanic captain Zinedine Zidane for the final group stage game, a second successive first round exit beckoned for the 1998 world champion. But on his 30th birthday, Vieira produced yet another match-winning performance, scoring the first goal against a resilient Togo and setting up the second. The win ensured qualification and a meeting with high-flying Spain in the first knockout stage.

Against Spain he looked like the player of two seasons ago, combining crunching tackles with slick and precise passing. He was also making the dangerous forward runs that made him the complete box to box midfielder. Vieira bossed the Spanish midfield and fittingly, it was he who put France in the lead. Zidane’s bouncing free kick was met with a firm head and, with seven minutes remaining, goalkeeper Casillas could do nothing but watch the back of the net bulge. As Vieira collapsed in triumph at the corner flag, his teammates leapt on top in gratitude. Ronaldo may have garnered the headlines with his record-breaking 15th World Cup goal but there was one man who dragged a team struggling to fulfil its potential into the next round, and that was Patrick Vieira.

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