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During his later years in France, where he won three consecutive national championships – of the seven the team won – Abidal’s confidence was shown when Lyon played Manchester United and he was in charge of marking Cristiano Ronaldo: “As a defender, my aim is to infuriate the opponent,” he explained. “I want him to be so sick of the sight of me that he has to move somewhere else on the pitch to get away.” At L’OL his defensive teammates included François Clerc, Grégory Coupet and Anthony Réveillère, as well as Brazilian internationals Caçapa and Cris. On 10 November 2004, Abidal scored the first goal of his career, in a 2–3 loss at former club Lille for the season’s Coupe de la Ligue round-of-32. As a result of his exploit, his parents agreed to get married after a 35-year union. Abidal missed the first months of the 2005–06 campaign after fracturing his metatarsus in a friendly game with Once Caldas. He still managed to appear in 15 matches as Lyon won its fifth national championship in a row (the second with the player). On 29 June 2007, Abidal signed a four-year contract with FC Barcelona for €9 million, after repeatedly stating that he would not return to training with Lyon if he was not allowed to move.
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In April 2003, he made his Netherlands international debut in a friendly match against Portugal at age 19. Robben’s first participation at an international tournament came at UEFA Euro 2004 when manager Dick Advocaat called up younger players, such as Wesley Sneijder and John Heitinga. During the group stage of the tournament, Advocaat substituted Robben in the 66th minute to defend a 2–1 lead over the Czech Republic. The Czechs, however, then scored two goals and won 3–2, which led to criticism about Advocaat’s decision. In the quarter-finals, Robben scored the deciding kick in the penalty shootout between the Netherlands and Sweden, which ensured that at the fifth attempt, the Dutch finally won a shootout.