Zidane the hero as France set up final with Italy

6th July 2006, Comments 0 comments

6 July 2006, MUNICH - A penalty from Zinedine Zidane was enough to see France overcome Portugal 1-0 in their World Cup semi-final match in Munich Wednesday and now only Italy stand between Les Blues and a second winner's trophy.

6 July 2006

MUNICH - A penalty from Zinedine Zidane was enough to see France overcome Portugal 1-0 in their World Cup semi-final match in Munich Wednesday and now only Italy stand between Les Blues and a second winner's trophy.

Captain Zidane was coolness personified as the Real Madrid star clinically dispatched his spot kick in the 33rd minute after Thierry Henry was brought down by Ricardo Carvalho.

Next up for France is an intriguing final date on Sunday in Berlin against Italy, who booked their place the previous night with a last-gasp 2-0 victory in Dortmund in extra time against the hosts Germany.

Portugal must face Germany in Stuttgart Saturday in the match for third place.

"We defended like lions," said Henry afterwards. "(Lilian) Thuram got man of match. It was for a reason."

Henry felt France had proven their critics wrong by making it to the final.

"You could see that the team had desire and commitment the way we played," he said.

"At the very beginning people were not seeing the real France, but even though we are getting older we still want to show something."

Luiz Felipe Scolari welcomed back Deco and Costinha, who were both suspended for Portugal's quarter-final penalty shootout defeat of England, while France were unchanged from the side that shocked Brazil.

Portugal started the stronger and it was Brazilian-born Deco who had the game's first chance after four minutes, testing Fabien Barthez with a long-range effort.

Maniche was next to probe the French goalkeeper from distance five minutes later while Thuram also had to be alert to cut out a Luis Figo cross destined for Pauleta.

France slowly found their feet in the game with Eric Abidal nearly finding Thierry Henry with a low cross while Ricardo saved well from the striker in the 28th minute.

However, there was nothing Ricardo could do to prevent France taking the lead five minutes later when referee Jorge Larrionda pointed to the spot after Carvalho caught Henry.

Ricardo may have become the first goalkeeper to save three spot kicks in a World Cup penalty shootout against England but despite getting his fingertips to Zidane's powerful strike, he couldn't keep it out.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who was booed throughout by fans unhappy at his apparent role in Wayne Rooney's sending off in that England match, was lucky not to be booked four minutes later when diving in the French area in search of a penalty of his own.

France started the second half much the stronger with Ricardo saving well from Henry and Frank Ribery before the up to then virtually anonymous Pauleta fired wide for Portugal on 53 minutes.

With France appearing more and more comfortable in defence, Scolari decided to ring the changes, first bringing on Paulo Ferreira for Miguel and then Simao for Pauleta and the more offensive Helder Postiga for Costinha.

Raymond Domenech's decision to start with Barthez instead of Gregory Coupet in goal nearly came back to haunt the France coach with 13 minutes remaining when Barthez completely misjudged a Ronaldo free-kick but Figo headed over with the goal gaping.

Louis Saha came on for Henry for the last eight minutes but still found time to get himself booked for a lunge on Figo and will now miss the final through suspension.

Portugal had never been behind in a match before in this tournament and apart from a late effort from Fernando Meira, France's defence held firm.

France now move on to their second final, looking to emulate the victory on home soil against Brazil in 1998. Portugal have now lost both World Cup semi-finals they have played in, their only other appearance in the last four coming in 1966, losing to eventual winners England.

"I'm so proud when I see how happy the players on the pitch are," said Domenech. "Portugal were a good team and we had problems getting our own game going. We had the good fortune to get a goal."

Meanwhile, Scolari was left smarting after his first World Cup defeat in 13 matches as coach of Brazil and Germany.

"I can't accept that we played badly we tried our best but things did not work out," said the Brazilian.


Subject: German news

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