Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Some people (myself included) expected an England against Brazil semi final rather than this one but you can't deny that the best two teams over the tournaments duration have progressed through. Portugal are strengthened by the return of Deco and Costinha from suspension but have slight injury concerns over both Luis Figo and Christiano Ronaldo. France have a full quota to choose from and are expected to stick with the same team that beat both Spain and Brazil.
One major worry for French fans must be Zidane's yellow card, one moment of recklessness or a lapse of concentration could see him booked and consequently unavailable for the final. He's not alone in that situation though - Maniche, Valente, Carvalho, Ricardo and Figo, Ribery, Saha, Sagnol and Thuram will all be suspended for the final in Berlin if booked tonight. Not only would Zidane's loss be a disaster for France, it would also be a great loss for football, ZZ has really turned it on in the knockout stages and he looked ten years younger than his receding hair suggested as he rolled back the years and tore the talented Spain and Brazil apart.
France's success has largely been down to the return to form of their aging midfield trio - Viera, Makelele and Zidane (the latter two of course, had previously announced their international retirement, whilst the former has had a mostly ineffectual season with Juventus). The match will be won in midfield (this is rapidly becoming a prolix catchphrase...) and much will depend on how Costinha marshals Zidane, you would expect Makelele and Viera to nullify the threat of Deco and Maniche. Portugal seem to have very good wingbacks and have made good use of them going forward (that Valente looks especially good...), France on the other hand aren't nearly as strong in terms of attacking fullbacks and I can see Portugal getting some joy down the flanks. If both Figo and Ronaldo were to miss the match though, this effect would be much diminished.
So, the result then... I see goals in this game and think Portugal with Deco back again should look a much better side than the one that couldn't beat a dire 10 man England side, however, it has to be the French with another Zidane inspired victory, that said, it's about time Henry put in a performance worthy of his stature.
Verdict: France win (in normal time).
Tags: world cup | france | zidane | portugal
Luckily it was another excellent refereeing performance (after the Italy-Germany game too...) All that Portuguese cheating, and none of it working...! Lovely stuff.
Fingers crossed for a similar shortage of match-spoiling cards this evening...
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