It’s Italy v France

French captain Zinedine Zidane has the opportunity for the perfect end to his glittering career after he scored the crucial goal in his side’s 1-0 semi final defeat of Portugal, booking tickets to the final in Berlin on Sunday in the process.

On the way to Berlin
On the way to Berlin

The key moment of the match occurred in the first half when the Algerian born Zidane converted a penalty on 33 minutes which would prove the match winner.

After most of the pre-match hype had focused on Portugese players simulating fouls, French striker Thierry Henry showed he was no slouch in that department either.

After cutting back inside the box, the Arsenal striker did get minimal contact from Chelsea defender Ricardo Carvalho but his delayed reaction suggested something more sinister.

Nevertheless Zidane did what three English players couldn’t when he beat goalkeeper Ricardo to get on the scoresheet.

Zidane converts

Zidane converts

The Portugese had their chances, but in the wash up will no doubt rue the lack of a dominant forward to play in the lone striker role.

Record goal scorer Pauleta never looked like the man who would get the equaliser, but when he was withdrawn on 67 minutes for Benfica’s Simao Sabrosa coach Luiz Felipe Scolari again opted to play Cristiano Ronaldo in the middle of the park.

As he did against England, the Manchester United player looked very uncomfortable in the unfamiliar role and while he lacked the physical presence to threaten two central defenders, the Portugese also lost their key creative element on the flanks.

On 77 minutes the Euro 2004 semi finalists almost had their equaliser when French goal keeper Fabian Barthez made a real hash of a free kick and only succeeded in palming the ball back into the path of Portugal’s Luis Figo, but the talisman couldn’t get his header on target despite the open goal.

The French then ended Scoalri’s 12 match unbeaten streak for Portugal and will now meet Italy in Berlin on Sunday as they try to secure their second World Cup title.

The Portugese team will need to pick up the pieces and prepare for the third and fourth playoff against Germany in Stuttgart on Saturday.

Source : Al Jazeera

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