Italy versus France – I put my money on France.

So, the greatest sporting event in the world is finally coming to an exciting conclusion. The FIFA World Cup Finals is less than two days away and no one is none the wiser as to who will be the favourites to lift the Cup of Life. Both Italy and France have been improving with each match and at first glance, one could say that both teams are equally matched.

Italy has been playing quite ruthlessly in my opinion, and was definitely lucky to go through as I did not think they deserve to in the first place. I totally detested the way they played against the US – Daniele De Rossi’s horrific elbow to the face of Brian McBride should have resulted in a total ban from this World Cup! And let’s not even talk about that stupid, blatant dive committed by Fabio Grosso to win Italy a last gasp penalty against Australia. That was just too cruel for Australia.

True, they have exceptional players and played vibrant attacking football but their strikers looked far from sharp. All the Italian strikers in the World Cup squad has scored so far – it proves the quality but it does not prove their ability to convert chances into goals. If Germany hadn’t been so tired and if only Michael Ballack had been more attacking minded, the semi-final result could’ve been very different indeed.

However, France is a totally different story. They have the extra edge as in they still have strong, experienced players who have lifted the trophy once eight years ago in Paris. Sure, they may have started slow and unconvincing, but there is no doubt that their impressive improvement has to be because of the leading candidate for Player of the Tournament, the old French warhorse, Zinedine Zidane. 

Zidane just seemed to be even better with age just like the many vintage wines churned out France. It is a shame indeed that he’ll be retiring after this World Cup as he still seem to have a few more playing years in him. This can be seen in  three games in a row, where the playmaker – whom the French has come to rely on to save them time and again – worked his socks off and produced one masterful performance after another to help France see off Spain in the Round of 16, piped Brazil to the semi-finals and booted Portugal out in the semis. Indeed, without the pervasive influence, tenacity and creative genius of Zidane, I really doubt whether France will even make it through the group.

Of course, besides Zidane, there’s also Lilian Thuram, the rock solid defender who has brought confidence back at the heart of the defence, Patrick Vieira, hate him or love him, there is no doubt he is the pillar of strength in the midfield and of course, in front of the goal, the last bastion of France’s defence, is none other than shotstopper Fabien Barthez. This tournament belongs to these four talented individuals who have fought with every ounce of blood, sweat, tears and strength to get to where they are now. The fiasco of 2002 is nothing but a faraway memory.

The future of France may look bleak without the services of Thuram, Zidane and Claude Makelele (another powerful defensive midfielder) but they can take heart in knowing that in Frank Ribery, they have a world class playmaker fit to where the boots and shirt of Zidane. Plus, the ever dangerous striker Thierry Henry is only 28, and will certainly feature in 2010 World Cup, should he remain injury free at that time and continues to bang in world class goals. They still have many quality players throughout their squad and if future managers look hard enough and make the right decisions, there will certainly be capable replacements for their old stars.

All said and done…Viva Les Bleus! Repeat your Euro 2000 victory against the Italians!!

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  1. Weeehaaa, what a day! 😉




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