Rematch with Italy is not about revenge: France

5th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Sept 5, 2006 (AFP) - Former world champions France face their World Cup conquerors Italy in a Euro 2008 qualifier this Wednesday which, for more reasons than one, will be regarded as a chance for revenge.

PARIS, Sept 5, 2006 (AFP) - Former world champions France face their World Cup conquerors Italy in a Euro 2008 qualifier this Wednesday which, for more reasons than one, will be regarded as a chance for revenge.

While the three points at stake will be coveted by both teams, France in particular will have the memory of their dramatic World Cup final loss to Italy very much on their minds.

If there could be any hint of 'schadenfreude' for Raymond Domenech's side ahead of their Stade de France fixture it is that Italy began their European Championship qualifying campaign with a whimper.

While France were hammering fellow group B side Georgia 3-0 in Tbilisi, Roberto Donadoni's side were held to a 1-1 draw by Lithuania in Naples.

Despite claims to the contrary, it seems that memories of France's World Cup final loss in Berlin stubbornly refuse to go away.

Italy won in extra time from penalty kicks after a dramatic final.

Zinédine Zidane was sent off for one of the most audacious headbutts ever seen in a football match after he reacted to foul mouthed comments about his mother and sister by Marco Materazzi, and then Italy prevailed 5-3.

Both players will be missing - Zidane having retired and Materazzi suspended for two matches because of his comments - but the fallout from that match is still floating around.

France claim this fixture has nothing to do with gaining revenge.

Their talismanic striker Thierry Henry recently said: "It's not about revenge.

"Even if we beat Italy, we're not going to win the World Cup. It's another competition altogether."

However the feeling in the country is that Raymond Domenech's beaten finalists are still hurting.

France defender Lilian Thuram claimed Sunday: "We should have won that final. I wouldn't call it a historical glitch, but at least on the pitch we were the team which performed better.

"Really, the best team on the night didn't win."

If France needed any motivation they need look no further than the response to Thuram's claims by Italy and AC Milan midfielder Gennaro Gattuso, one of the few Italy players to perform well on Saturday.

Gattuso, known for his terrier-like style on the field, showed some of the same off it when he said that France, who beat Italy to victory in the 2000 European Championships final thanks to David Trezeguet's golden goal, should get on with life.

"When we lost the Euro 2000 10 seconds from the end we didn't go around moaning about it afterwards," Gattuso said from Florence.

"It's true that we usually find it a bit hard to swallow defeats, but they (France) are a lot worse.

"At least on that score, Italy come runner-up to France," added Gattuso, who has scored just one goal in 48 appearances for Italy.

France, who are always unsure of the kind of welcome they can expect at their national stadium, may at least have the upper hand over Italy in physical terms.

And after their shock draw with Lithuania Italy have their backs to the wall.

The Italian league only resumes this weekend and Donadoni, who replaced Marcello Lippi after the World Cup, admitted that match fitness could prove key.

"It was down to nothing more than our physical condition," said the former AC Milan and Italy midfielder after the shock draw in Naples, who is set to make a couple of changes.

World Cup winning fullback Gianluca Zambrotta is set to return to the right of defence in place of Massimo Oddo.

Despite scoring on Saturday, striker Filippo Inzaghi could be replaced by AC Milan teammate Alessandro Gilardino.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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