World Cup: France in final against Italy

With perspiration dripping off his bald pate, he faced Ricardo Pereira, 12 meters from the goal. And with the composure gained from so many tough games over the years, he kicked the ball just inside the post.

The shot was perfect. Though the goalkeeper correctly chose a dive to his right, the ball barely eluded his fingertips.

In a match that turned on one penalty kick awarded and another denied, Zidane's goal in the 33rd minute gave France a 1-0 victory over Portugal on Wednesday night and a berth against Italy in an all-blue World Cup final, Les Bleus vs. the Azzurri, the AP reports.

Others may have not expected the 34-year-old Zidane, who is retiring after Sunday's final, to carry his aging teammates this far. Pardon him, though, if he feels like this has all happened before.

Six years ago, Zidane's penalty kick with three minutes left in extra time beat Portugal in the European Championship semifinals to set up a final against Italy. France won that one.

Three-time champion Italy will be appearing in its sixth final. The last time the Azzuri won it was 1982.

The French were supposed to be soccer's over-the-hill gang, consider too old and too tired. This will be their second appearance in a World Cup final, the other in 1998, when Zidane scored twice in a 3-0 victory at home over Brazil. Six players remain from that team.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team