Preview: Portugal v France

France will be looking to repeat Euro 2000 on Wednesday, when they defeated Portugal in the semifinals before claiming the title.

Destined for victory?
Destined for victory?

The French side, and nation, are suddenly full of confidence after they defeated World Champions Brazil in the quarter finals to put them with two victories of a second World Cup title in eight years.

However coach Raymond Domenech, who is suddenly back in the good books of every journalist and fan after being hounded before the tournament and during the early matches, knows there is still plenty of work to do.

“The danger for us now is to think we’ve done it by beating Brazil, we’ve got to get the players back to where they were before that win,” Domenech said.
“We’ve achieved something super … but our work is not finished, we can’t let up. For me success at this World Cup only comes if we win.”

The coach will be aided by his master pupil Zinedine Zidane, the finest player of his generation and one who believes it is his destiny to end his career with another World Cup winner’s medal.

“I think it’s precisely because he is retiring, because he is ending his career, that he’s fully focused on the game,” Domenech said.
“Now he doesn’t have to calculate anything. He can play with freedom and expression, because he knows every game could be his last. That is the reason why he’s able to play so well.”

The French also knows discipline will be a key factor in the game with six of his players: Zidane, Willy Sagnol, Louis Saha, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira and Franck Ribery all starting the match with a yellow card.

Portugal are buoyed by the return of the suspended midfield duo Deco and Costinha, and the coach Luiz Felipe Scolari has urged his team to go forward and make history.

“We had the chance to create a piece of history at the 2004 European Championship and we didn’t take it,” said Scolari, referring to Portugal’s failure to win their first major tournament  on home soil two years ago.

‘Big Phil’ says “The only way is up”
‘Big Phil’ says “The only way is up”

“Now we have got another chance to make history at the World Cup.”

The Brazilian has been hailing his side’s new found spirit as they look to make their first World Cup final.

“The spirit of this team is remarkable,” Scolari said.

“This is a new Portugal team and it’s a new spirit. It’s a warrior spirit. This is what we were missing in the past.
“We had great technical players but now we have added a warrior spirit.”

Source : Al Jazeera, News Agencies

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