July 09, 2006

World Cup Final – Italy v France

Question: Who would have thought right back at the start of the tournament that this would be the final? Answer: No–one. I have to admit I did tip Italy to make the final, but only really given the relative simplicity of the path they had to get to it. Ironically this was made even more straight forward by the virtual self destruction of Argentina and the fact that France slipped up getting out of there group. Indeed the reason hardly anyone would have predicted an Italy v France final was that it relied on one of the sides coming second in their group. Logically if you were predicting either team, but especially France, to come second in their group you weren’t going to have them reaching the final.

So now they are both there, who is going to win? I would argue that it is almost too close to call. Italy are solid, well organised, but have a chronic lack pace, especially up front. France are experienced and perhaps have more individually talented players – in Zidane and Henry they have two of players who are potentially unstoppable – however they have one or two weak links in the side and an enormous average age which could cost them. A lot will rest on the shoulders of Zidane. When he has performed France have beaten the likes of Spain and Brazil, but when he has failed to turn up they have struggled against relative minnows.

The entire French tactical set up is based around Zidane, which is a massive danger. Domenech appears to have no plan B and certainly I will be hugely surprised if Gattuso is not detailed to keep Zidane out of the game. Usually the risk in this sort of overt man marking is that it opens up space for other players to exploit, however given that the Italians (and the French for that matter) will be playing with two anchors in midfield I cannot see too many problems. Indeed if the French do the same and stick Vieira on Totti we could be in for one of the all time most boring cup finals. With their supply routes cut off, Toni and Henry will be totally isolated from the rest of their sides.

Interestingly even though both teams are lining up with 4–5–1 style formations they will subtly differ in lay out. Whereas Italy will operate more as a 4–4–1–1, with Totti behind Toni and Camoranesi and Perrota on either flank, France have a sort of 4–2–3–1 with Malouda, Ribery and Zidane at times making a front four with Henry. The weakness in the Italian side is up front where Toni has proved himself to be definitive evidence that his club Florientina are guilty of match fixing. He looks nothing like a 30+ goals striker and should be easy for Thuram and Gallas to handle. For the French, the major weakness is down the left hand side where Malouda and Abidal have looked pretty average throughout the tournament. Given that Camornesi, and especially Zambrotta are tricky players, this could be a key area in the match.

- 24 comments by 3 or more people Not publicly viewable

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  1. Nothing so bold as a prediction?

    I'm going for 1-0 to France. Scored by Zidane or Henry. Not very original, I admit.

    09 Jul 2006, 11:31

  2. Lol – I forgot. I've gone for 1–0 was well. Zidane to score in the 85th minute. Got to maintain my 5th place in the Sheffield's prediction league.

    09 Jul 2006, 15:29

  3. Jesus

    I am going to have France down for the first goal. At half–time the french will eat baguettes and brie, and the Italians will have ristretta doppio x 10 then they will win.

    It will be 2–1 to Italia.

    09 Jul 2006, 15:59

  4. 3–0 England

    Ok, 2–0 Italy

    09 Jul 2006, 16:19

  5. the italians to take it 2–1.
    much as it would be nice to see zidane win on his last professional appearance, it would be just as funny to see him and henry fall short.

    09 Jul 2006, 16:42

  6. god zidane has just been sent off those predictions could come true. bugger.

    09 Jul 2006, 21:23

  7. Adam

    I predict 1–1…extra time and then Italy win 5–3 on penalities.

    …..I didn't get away with that one did I.

    09 Jul 2006, 22:33

  8. no.

    09 Jul 2006, 22:47

  9. Alec Pichon

    Just what DID matrezzo say to 9the usually cool–as–a–cucumber) Zidane? Reminds me of Cantona's outburst at the crowd. If I remember correctly, it was reported that the fan he'd kicked said "Your mother's a Jewish whore". Hmm, foul it may have been, but nevertheless, I doubt it was entirely unprovoked. We wuz robbed!

    09 Jul 2006, 22:53

  10. You have to applaud Zidane for the huge effort he put into that headbutt – throughout his career he never gave less than 100% did he?

    i'd also love to hear what Materazzi said – we might not know for years though.

    09 Jul 2006, 22:56

  11. no, zidane is probs too much of a gent to let much of the story slip. he's not the kind of guy that thrives off tabloids. but hopefully we'll get part of the story at least. christ.

    09 Jul 2006, 23:01

  12. I think he said "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" I could be wrong though…

    09 Jul 2006, 23:26

  13. Let's not forget Zidane has done this sort of thing before (v Saudi in 1998). It's not acceptable, but Materazzi must have said something pretty awful. Pity that what could have been the perfect end turned into such a nightmare. Imagine if Rooney had done that for England in the final…........

    09 Jul 2006, 23:44

  14. Michael Jones

    Imagining any scenario involving England in the final is fairly difficult.

    10 Jul 2006, 01:01

  15. Christopher Rossdale

    The Times Sport did predict Italy – France – they had a cutting from their own paper from a month ago to prove it too.

    10 Jul 2006, 01:05

  16. Swan = idiot.
    obviously havn't been wathing enough football to say Toni is "definitive evidence that his club Florientina are guilty of match fixing."
    You've also singled out Camorenesi as a "tricky" player".
    To anyone who knows about football, Camorenesi is literally the worst player in the Italian side. If you're going to write about football, please watch it first. You dickhead. At least you recognise that Abidal and Malouda are poor. That's one thing. Hey! you know that disgrace that is David Pleat is still writing for the Guardian, so there is hope, keep trying!

    When you know about football, let's have a little conversation, yes?

    10 Jul 2006, 03:46

  17. Random

    Battaglino = bigger idiot. Camoranesi is not the worst player in the side and it certainly isn't clear cut.

    10 Jul 2006, 09:45

  18. Hero

    What he in fact said was 'You french know NOTHING about food'. When said to a Frenchman this is simultaneously reveals a world truth that all frenchmen are in massive denial about, and is like saying 'your mother is not very good in the kitchen'.

    (either that or he told my favourite joke – what did the French say when 10,000 german troops marched into Paris? – "Table for 10,000 m'sieur?"


    10 Jul 2006, 10:45

  19. Olly Whitehead

    While I admire your passion, surely such crude name calling undermines anything you wish to say Vincent? Also Peter does raise a fair point – Toni looked very ordinary, not a 30+ goals a season striker, while certainly not clear cut evidence of anything, one does have to wonder how such an ordinary player can score that many goals.

    Having watched and admired Italian football since the heady days of watching Football Italia on CH4 I can say that this team was possibly the least talented group of Italians I have seen in some while, yet they fully deserved the win for being collectively greater than the sum of their parts, a triumph for a despairing football nation.
    Vincent – I await nuanced and eloquent exposition of modern footballing journalism from you, alas I fear that may not be forthcoming, but please feel free to share your extensive footballing knowledge with us in "a little conversation, yes?

    10 Jul 2006, 12:09

  20. "this is simultaneously reveals a world truth that all frenchmen are in massive denial about"

    how dare you!!!

    headbuts hero

    10 Jul 2006, 12:44

  21. I'm afraid i have to agree slightly with Vincent here. Camoranesi is one of the most ineffectual players i have ever seen he was utterly useless and contributed little throughout the tournament. i was gald when he got subbed off cos at least Del Piero could contribute something, and i wouldn't have to see Mauro's Argentinian face and ponytail again. Nice to see he cut it off after the final whistle, but i doubt i'll see him in the champions league next season with Juve…

    toni was okay, but was too often left alone up front with little support.

    10 Jul 2006, 13:29

  22. thank you, Robert. You've been watching obviously.
    Not surprising you essentially defend your own blog, Olly.
    But anyway.

    10 Jul 2006, 14:47

  23. Hero

    Hey! I haven't even tweaked your nipples yet!

    10 Jul 2006, 15:24

  24. Allan Smith

    I'd have to second/third/fourth the anti–Camoranesi movement also. I do generally hate him anyway, but also because he seems startlingly average.

    Luca Toni should have threatened Klose for top scorer (he hit the woodwork enough times); he was perhaps unlucky or lacking at times, but he's definitely good for his capocannoniere record.

    10 Jul 2006, 17:24

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