World Cup 2006 Features
Brief profiles on the French players likely to play in the final
Jul 7, 2006, 9:09 GMT
Berlin - The following are brief profiles on the French coach, as well as the French players who are likely to start Sunday's World Cup final against Italy.
Fabien Barthez: A controversial choice as number one after Raymond Domenech went with his vast experience over the in-form Lyon 'keeper Gregory Coupet. Has not disappointed with a series of top drawer performances but still uncertain of his club future although the shaven-headed former Manchester United custodian will not be short of offers after the tournament. Was in goal when France won the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.
Lilian Thuram: Won a record 120th cap in the semi-final against Portugal and was named man of the match in a monumental showing. Has been a tower of strength at the back alongside William Gallas. Convinced by Domenech to come out of international retirement during qualifying along with Zidane and Makelele but now with no regrets with France into the final. A Juventus player, his future remains in doubt with the corruption scandal that has hit Italy.
William Gallas: The Chelsea man has quietly gone about his job in brilliant fashion. France have only conceded two goals so far in the tournament and Gallas is a big reason why. Always said central defence was his favourite position and alongside Thuram he has shown why. A move to AC Milan was on the cards from Stamford Bridge until the current corruption scandal that is likely to keep him in London.
Willy Sagnol: Another player who has had a fantastic tournament at right-back. Now a veteran in the team and one of the leaders, Sagnol's all-action never say die attitude has made him a big favourite within the squad and with the fans. Avoided a yellow card in the semi-final which means he will play his first World Cup final against Italy on Sunday. Familiar with German grounds as he plays his club football for Bayern Munich.
Eric Abidal: The weakest of the back line but still capable of doing a job at left-back. Impressed in warm-up matches and despite missing the Togo match with suspension, was brought straight back in to face Spain in the last-16. Keeping Michael Silvestre on the bench despite the Manchester United defender holding more experience. Looked nervous against Portugal and needs to steady his play for the final.
Zinedine Zidane: The hero and darling of France. Will play his final match in the World Cup final before bringing down the curtain on one of the greatest careers ever. Has won everything in the game and is the inspiration of Domenech's side. Turned in glittering performances against Spain, Brazil and Portugal and fired home the winning penalty in the semi-final with nerves of steel. Could easily run for president of France and win in a landslide.
Patrick Vieira: Was criticised as a potential weak link and being out of form but has answered back in style. It was his goal against Togo in the second half that sparked France into life in the group phase before he headed home the winner against Spain in the last-16. Another player who managed to avoid a second yellow against Portugal and can now attack the final with renewed vigour. The only doubt may be his weary legs and some of the French players were flagging towards the end against Portugal.
Claude Makelele: The unsung hero of the side, Makelele who was born in Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) is crucial to the team with his massive ability to win and keep possession. Enjoying a starring role after being a squad player at past tournaments. Played just one match in 2002 and was another player who was persuaded to come out of retirement for the World Cup. At 33-years-old, this tournament is almost certainly his last chance to win the title.
Florent Malouda: The weak link in midfield, Malouda has failed to reproduce the form he showed for Lyon during their championship run. His winning goal against Mexico in a preparation match probably earned him a spot in the side but French fans are not convinced he belongs. To his credit, he has played well defensively although going forward, has failed to make an impact. Playing at his first major international competition.
Franck Ribery: The most popular player after Zidane and has been a massive hit since being a surprise inclusion in Domenech's squad. Impressive displays in warm-up matches forced the Marseille winger into the starting 11 and his wonderful solo goal against Spain inspired France to victory. Always willing to give time to the supporters, he is often the last player to leave the pitch after matches. Has had a rap song written in his honour in France and is distinctive by a nasty scar picked up from a car accident in his youth.
Thierry Henry: The lone man up front, Henry has been a menace to opposing defences and scored the all-important goal against Brazil in the quarter-finals. Capable of winning a match on his own, the Arsenal skipper also won the penalty that led to Zidane's winner in the semi-final against Portugal. Sometimes fades towards the end of matches but is still dangerous enough to inflict damage.
Raymond Domenech: From zero to hero in the space of weeks, the transformation in Domenech's popularity has been astonishing considering he was being ridiculed in the press even up to the final group game against Togo. Always insisted to be judged on his results in Germany, he has been true to his word. Made some brave tactical changes before finally settling on his starting 11, and the decision to include Ribery in the squad has proved to be an inspired move. While most expected he would be fired after the tournament, he is now set for an extension and pay rise after exceeding almost everyone's expectations except possibly his own.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur