Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

ZZ Is Still Tops for Us, Say France

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

ZZ Is Still Tops for Us, Say France

Article excerpt

Byline: By Tom Ross

France coach Raymond Domenech claims Zinedine Zidane is turning back the years with some excellent World Cup displays for Les Bleus precisely because he knows he will retire when the tournament is over, writes Tom Ross.

Zidane will hang up his boots at the end of Germany 2006 but has got better and better during les Bleus' march to the semi-finals with the 34-year-old taking man-of-the-match honours after Saturday's quarter-final victory over outgoing champions Brazil.

The Real Madrid playmaker's free-kick set up Thierry Henry's winner in Frankfurt, sending France into the last four where they will meet Portugal in Munich on Wednesday.

Asked if Zidane's current form meant he should reconsider his retirement plans, Domenech did not give a direct answer but replied: "He's Zidane. He seems to be surprising you. He doesn't surprise us. We know what he is capable of and it's precisely because he knows he will be quitting soon that he wants to play to the very limits ( he is not holding back in any way.

"It's the mentality we have been trying to instil in all the players ( to imagine that every match is their last. Every squad member ( all 14 who played ( played their part and even those who did not play who gave great support to the team."

Once again, Zidane proved the nemesis of Brazil, who will not be playing in the final for the first time since 1990 and who lost the 1998 final in Paris with two headed goals from 'Zizou' setting up a 3-0 win for the French.

The French were criticised after drawing their opening matches against Switzerland and South Korea but Domenech, like Italy coach Marcello Lippi, who said before the tournament he wanted his players to reach their peak during the knockout stages, claims his side's campaign has always been on schedule. …

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