Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Ugly win for the French.

July 6 (Bloomberg) -- France will face three-time champion Italy in the July 9 World Cup final after Zinedine Zidane, playing in his last soccer tournament, scored from a penalty kick to give his team a 1-0 victory.

The 34-year-old Zidane, who got two goals in the team's 1998 final win over Brazil, slotted his kick past Ricardo in the 33rd minute at Munich's World Cup stadium yesterday to give France a shot at a second world title.

The French, who exited the 2002 World Cup without scoring, advanced to a rematch of the 2000 European Championship final, which they won 2-1. The final will be held at Berlin's Olympic stadium.

``Zidane affords the French public real dreams,'' France coach Raymond Domenech told reporters. ``That's always been the case with him for 10 years now.''

Zidane, who is quitting after the World Cup, knocked Portugal out of a tournament for the second time with a penalty kick after his sudden-death winning goal in the Euro 2000 quarterfinals.

The player nicknamed ``Zizou'' took two steps before drilling his shot past goalkeeper Ricardo, who got his fingertips to the ball without changing its course.

Ricardo Carvalho was adjudged to have tripped Thierry Henry for the penalty, a ruling the Portuguese disputed. Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari remonstrated when the referee turned down a penalty appeal as Cristiano Ronaldo, jeered by fans with his every touch, fell in the area with France defender Willy Sagnol's arms raised next to him.

`Ugly Duckling'

``We were the ugly duckling of the final four,'' Scolari told SporTV.

Italy defeated Germany 2-0 yesterday with goals in the last two minutes of extra time in Dortmund. It's aiming for a European record fourth World Cup victory. Brazil has the most wins with five.

Portugal came closest to tying the score when goalkeeper Fabien Barthez scooped a dipping 35-yard free kick from Ronaldo into the air like in volleyball and Luis Figo headed the ball over the bar with 13 minutes left.

The French defense, shielded by midfielders Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira, had mostly contained Portugal's attack as it secured a fifth shutout at the tournament.

Portugal had the better of the early play, with Deco forcing Barthez into a diving save and Maniche shooting just over the bar. Barthez also saved from Figo before France began to respond midway through the first half.


Henry cut inside right-back Miguel and shot straight at Ricardo then minutes later turned Carvalho in the penalty area, catching the defender and falling to the ground with outstretched arms to win the penalty.

Scolari, fuming about the decision, protested again as Ronaldo fell in the area under Sagnol's challenge. Ronaldo was criticized by England players for urging the referee to dismiss Wayne Rooney in the previous round.

As the second half began, Ricardo scrambled to save a shot by Henry that crept under his body, deflected off his hand and span out of play. The Portugal goalkeeper then blocked a shot by Ribery with one hand.

Portugal striker Pauleta turned in the penalty box and fired into the side of the net in the 53rd minute, before former world player of the year Figo missed the best chance after Barthez's unorthodox save from Ronaldo.

`Party Continues'

France won its second World Cup semifinal in five attempts and ended Scolari's unbeaten run at the World Cup at 12 games after the coach led Brazil to the world title four years ago.

Scolari played seven minutes without a striker after taking Pauleta off in the 68th minute and only putting Helder Postiga on in the 75th. Maradona said: ``He paid for it.''

France's substitute striker Louis Saha will miss the final after receiving a second yellow card. In World Cup play, France and Italy are tied at two wins each.

``We hope the party continues,'' France defender Lilian Thuram told reporters. ``At the beginning of the World Cup we had a fixed objective. Now we want this to end with a good finish.''

The Portuguese were taking part in their first World Cup semifinal since 1966, when they lost to England. They will face host Germany in Stuttgart on July 8 in the third-place playoff.

Portugal had allowed only one goal in Germany before today and was unbeaten in 17 matches at major tournaments. France also beat Portugal in the semifinals of the 1984 and 2000 European Championships.


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