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ITALY, FRANCE PLAY IN FINAL

ITALY, FRANCE PLAY IN FINAL

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Italy and France will contest the final of the 2006 world cup this Sunday from 2: pm local time in Berlin, Germany.

Italy silenced the host with a 2-0 win in an epic semi-final last Tuesday in Dortmund, as neither teams gave anything away.{{more}}

A match that ebbed and flowed as the all round strength of both teams was on exhibition.

It took a bit of drama from Fabio Grosso in the 29th minute of extra time to break the deadlock, as his crisp left foot shot was buried past German goalkeeper, Jens Lehmann.

Substitute Alessandro Del Piero sealed the issue one minute later, capitalizing on the Germans’ thin backline as they surged forward in search of the equalizer in order to send the match into penalties.

Both teams had an opportunity earlier in extra period to take the lead, but failed.

Italy reached the semi-final beating Ukraine 3-0 and Germany edged out Argentina 4-2 on penalty kicks, after both team played to a goalless draw in regulation and extra time.

France advanced to this stage beating Portugal 1-0 in the other semi-final on Wednesday.

A 33rd minute penalty converted by French captain Zinedine Zidane pushed them to Sunday’s final.

France dominated the first half. The Portuguese clawed back in the second half but lacked the cutting edge to break the French defence marshalled by Lilian Thuram.

The Portuguese best chance came in the 77th minute when Fabian Barthez fumbled a free kick, but Luis Figo headed over the bar from close range.

France’s march to the last two took its best turn in the quarter final when a Thierry Henry strike ousted 2002 winners and hot favourites Brazil. This spark in the quarter final was absent as the French limped into the second round following an indifferent performance in the preliminary round.

The Italians go into Sunday’s final with a lone goal conceded against them, an own goal registered in the preliminary round versus the USA in a 1-1 tie.

Italy will be seeking their fourth lien on the title, having won in 1934, 1938, and 1982 while France are after their second having lifted the cup at home in 1998.

Italy last visit to the final was in 1994 in the USA, but lost to Brazil on penalties. Their other final was in 1970 also losing to Brazil.

The third place contest comes off tomorrow in Stuttgart between Germany and Portugal.

Sunday’s final should be as intriguing as the previous sixty-three matches, as the surprise package offered at the 18th world cup final unwraps.

Whoever wins Sunday’s grand finale will even the number of wins to nine to South America and Europe.

Since the inception of football’s showpiece in 1930, only representative teams from the two continents have lifted the trophy.

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