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France Defeats Portugal, Reaches World Cup Football Final


France has defeated Portugal, 1-0, to reach the championship match at the World Cup in Germany.

The hard fought match was decided on a penalty kick. The lone goal came in the 33rd minute from star French midfielder Zinedine Zidane.

The penalty was awarded when Portuguese defender Ricardo Carvalho tripped French forward Thierry Henry, near the top of the box. Zidane, a three-time world footballer of the year who is retiring after this World Cup, blasted the ball inside the left post.

French coach Raymond Domenech said, through an interpreter, that it was a quality match and that the Portuguese were even tougher to beat than Brazil, which France had ousted in the quarterfinals. "I render credit to this Portuguese team. It was a very hard team. They played really well. They played with what they had to bring into the match. So bravo to the Portuguese. We suffered a lot, but there's one winner," he said.

Domenech added that this is a resilient French football team. "The quality of this team, and it's been the case for a long time, is its capacity to go through hard times. That happened this evening. Its toughness, its solidity, the way they are capable of cooperating, of holding (off Portugal's offense) until the end, thinking 'we can play' and whenever we can play (offense) we will play. And whenever you have to defend, you'll defend. And everybody does it together and everybody is capable of sacrificing themselves," he said.

The French have now beaten the Portuguese the last eight times they have played, dating back to 1975. Also with the loss, Portugal tasted defeat for the first time since February of last year, a stretch covering 19 games.

Portugal's Brazilian coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, through an interpreter, said he did not think his team was outplayed by France. "I don't believe that France was better than Portugal. I think it was a balanced match. One play decided it; one penalty. So we don't have to contest the penalty, it happened and that was the situation," he said.

Scolari clearly was not happy with the officiating, pacing the sideline and often throwing his hands up in disgust. Not long after France scored, the Portuguese believed they should have been awarded a penalty kick. It appeared Cristiano Ronaldo was pushed down by a French defender in the box while trying to reach a crossing pass. In frustration, a water bottle was kicked on the field in front of Portugal's bench.

Scolari, who won the world championship as Brazil's coach four years ago, said he was dreaming of another title. Instead, it will be France aiming for a second title after winning the trophy on home soil in 1998.

With the 1-0 victory over Portugal, France earned the right to play Italy in Sunday's World Cup final in Berlin. Italy had won its semifinal over host Germany (2-0) on Tuesday in Dortmund.

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