ZZ bids to sign off in style
08 Jul 2006 - 18:34:01
Zinedine Zidane aims to finish his glittering career in style on Sunday by helping France beat Italy in the World Cup Final and clinch his second winners' medal.
The Berlin final marks the 34-year-old's last match before his retirement, a fitting end to a fine career that included a brace of goals in the World Cup Final success against Brazil eight years ago.
It is also a far cry from the position Raymond Domenech's side found themselves in just over two weeks ago when Zidane was suspended from the final group game against Togo. If two second-half goals had not secured a victory for France in that match, Zidane may have been considering a far less dramatic finale.
Domenech is expected to keep faith with the side that has beaten Spain, Brazil and Portugal in the knockout stages of the tournament although Louis Saha, who has been used from the substitute's bench several times, is suspended after picking up his second yellow card in the Portuguese success.
France are again expected to start with Thierry Henry as a lone striker with Zidane in a playmaker role.
Domenech is determined to taste success in the Final, saying: "What matters now is to go all the way. We can't be content with just being in the Final. We must give all we have in that Final to make sure we have no regrets."
Italy have improved as the tournament has gone on, their draw against nine-man USA in the group stage a distant memory on Tuesday as they produced an inspired display to beat Germany 2-0 after extra-time in the semi-finals.
Their run to the Final has not been too testing with victories against Australia and Ukraine being enough to clinch their place against the hosts in the semis.
Coach Marcello Lippi will have midfielder Daniele De Rossi available again following his four-match suspension for his red card in the USA draw.
However, Alessandro Nesta is ruled out with the groin injury that has kept him out of all of Italy's games in the knockout stages so Marco Materazzi is again set to deputise for him in central defence alongside captain Fabio Cannavaro, who will be making his 100th appearance for his country.
Lippi is in an optimistic mood going into the match, saying: "My players have improved as the tournament has progressed, both mentally and physically.
"This is a superb squad. We have an incredible team spirit and that can give you a decisive edge at this level. It can often prove to be the difference between two highly technically-gifted sides that are evenly-matched in every other area."
France are looking to clinch their second World Cup Final success following their 1998 triumph while Italy are going in search of their fourth win, and their first since 1982.