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Italy, France Get Ready for World Cup Title Match


Few would have thought the French could make it to the final here, after they played to draws in their two opening group matches, and were at risk of bowing out of the tournament until a 2-0 win over Togo.

But with an experienced side that includes a number of players, who helped them win their first-ever World Cup on home soil in 1998, France has been impressive in the knockout stages of the tournament, beating Spain, Brazil and Portugal.

French coach Raymond Domenech said, having experienced players should make a difference in the final. And, through an interpreter, he said his players feel like they have the momentum, as they have improved from game to game.

"I think, the players are still on a wave, on a roller. I think they have tried hard to remain a team, to remain a group, and, before the match is over, they are going to keep in there," he said. "I don't see any reasons for change. Every time we have moved on to another stage, we have achieved an objective, another reason to be cheerful, to be serene. But, they are very present. There's a great deal of solidarity between them."

The World Cup final against Italy will be the last international match for star French midfielder Zinedine Zidane, a three-time World Footballer of the Year.

Members of the media were hoping he would talk with them the day before the big game. And coach Domenech was asked why Zidane has remained silent since before the opening match of the tournament.

"Like all the others, like all the players. They have been saying the same thing. Their objective is not to explain what they do, but it's to do it. So, they are concentrating on that. They are preparing, and they are sticking with their objective, which is to perform well on the day, to deliver the best they can," he added.

Opponent Italy has had an impressive World Cup, as well. The only goal it has allowed was an own-goal in the 1-1 tie against the United States in first round group play. And in the semifinals, Italy beat Germany in Dortmund, a city where the host nation had never before lost a match.

Italian television reporter Cristina Fantoni told VOA Sports that, at the beginning of the World Cup, Italians, for the most part, did not think their team had a chance to win the title. But after seeing the team improve and reach the final, they believe they can beat France. Fantoni said the players believe that, too.

"They are prepared to stay in the match, because they had big problems to concentrate at the beginning of the World Cup, with the [fixing] scandal in Italy," she said. "And now, I think it's easier for them to stay in the match, because they have only to think about the match."

Against France, the Italians will be aiming for their fourth World Cup championship. Their last one came in 1982.

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