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Friday, July 07, 2006

Italy vs. France: The football in blue

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It's certainly not the game most people would have predicted but the quality on offer of Italy and France game on Sunday's World Cup final in Berlin could not be higher - or of a better vintage.

They are not young teams - as they were Spain or Germany - and they were not the favorites to reach the final. But Italy and France did, and that's mostly because they have experienced players with ambition of glory.

France may be the more senior of the teams but you have to get up pretty early to better the Italians at protecting their goal. The Azzurri, who will wear their blue on the night, have conceded just one goal in their six encounters and that an own goal from Cristian Zaccardo. Italy have been reassuringly accurate at the other end too. Coach Marcello Lippi's management of his forward men has led to 11 goals - joint top with Brazil and Argentina - scored by 10 different players.

We must remember that France destroyed Italian dreams in the Euro 2000 final. Now both coaches, Lippi and Domenech, are far too learned to have the word revenge enter their discourse on the match. However, when these two footballing neighbours meet, serious rivalry is never too far away.

We can say that with Zidane's last game, Cannavaro's 100th cap and no suspensions, Italy-France has the makings of a classic, and the World Cup really needs it.


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