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France face major shake-up after final
« on: July 08, 2006, 08:20:10 AM »

France face major shake-up after final
- ZIDANE & BAND’s RETIREMENT

 
Hamelin: France face a major rebuilding program in the wake of Zinedine Zidane’s retirement, whether or not the team wins the World Cup final on Sunday.

Zidane previously announced he will retire after the World Cup, while 34-year-old defender Lilian Thuram and 33-year-old midfield Claude Makelele will leave the national team after the final against Italy. Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez, who is 35, may also retire.

France coach Raymond Domenech hopes that will serve as extra motivation for one last tilt at glory.

“If the players think about this and want to surpass themselves, then so much the better,” Domenech said. “Everyone will do that little bit more for Zizou, Lilian, Makelele and all those who have announced their retirement.”

Domenech said such veterans bring “calm and serenity” to the team, but their departure will leave rebuilding work and not much time to do it ahead of the qualifying competition for the 2008 European Championship.

France better be ready quick, because Italy visit Stade de France on September 6.

“There will still be other players around,” France defender Willy Sagnol said Friday. “Who will be there to face the same responsibilities, the same criticisms.”

Asked who would fill the void, and who could become the new leaders in the team, Sagnol appeared evasive. “I don’t want to bring up this issue ... at least, not now,” the Bayern Munich defender said.

Domenech is likely to remain in charge after taking over two years ago — when he initially had to rebuild after Zidane, Thuram and Makelele announced their retirements following France’s quarter final exit to Greece at the 2004 European Championship.

All three came back a year later to help France qualify for the World Cup, but this time Zidane and friends leave for good.

Sagnol, who is close friends with Zidane, spoke of the inspiration the players feel around Zidane and other members of the 1998 World Cup winning team.

“Zidane has a special quality of leadership, so does Lilian and Fabien,” Sagnol said. “They are guides who we are happy to follow.”

Zidane will make his 108th and final international appearance for Les Bleus on Sunday, Thuram will extend his French record to 121 caps and, fittingly for a player of big stature within the team, Makelele will gain his 50th.
 
(AP)

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1060708/asp/sports/story_6452407.asp
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