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BATTLE OF BERLIN
« on: July 08, 2006, 08:28:01 AM »

BERLIN ALL SET FOR BATTLES WITHIN A BATTLE

It is being described as a face-off between the French resurgence, inspired by Zinedine Zidane and Italy’s confidence based on a rock solid defence. Come Sunday, the final in Berlin will pit rival players against each other in more battles. Such individual contests could well be the key to deciding who’ll have the last laugh. Here’s a peek into such battles within the grand battle:

CANNAVARO vs HENRY

Exactly what the World Cup final should be about — a supreme defender and captain doing everything he can to shackle the tournament’s most naturally talented forward, who will need to use all his sublime skills to find a way through. Cannavaro has been immense, leading by example and organising a defence that has been pierced only by an own goal. He faces the ultimate test in his 100th international in the form of the brooding brilliance of Henry. Henry’s pace, delicate touch and vision mark him as a special striker and the battle for an inch of space inside the penalty area should be engrossing.

ZIDANE vs GATTUSO

Zidane may be dreaming of a fairytale finale to his career but Beauty and the Beast might not be the story that he wanted to go out on. This contest between the stylish creator and the dedicated destroyer is football in a microcosm and could be hugely important in deciding the outcome.

Zidane has improved with every round so he is now bestriding the pitch with almost all the majesty and arrogant superiority he displayed in inspiring France to their 1998 success.

He is the perfect target for Gattuso, a terrier of a midfielder who is massively committed, a brilliant tackler and tireless worker in front of the back four. Gattuso will revel in tracking Zidane’s every move and making his presence felt. Zidane knows there will not get a second’s peace from the AC Milan workhorse and will need all his special tricks to get away from him.

TOTTI vs MAKELELE

The same battle in reverse as France’s midfield bulwark bids to prevent Totti weaving his magic behind striker Luca Toni.

Totti has shown only glimpses of his best form at this tournament but is a high-class operator whose passing opens gaps others do not even consider.

Makelele will seek to cut off those passes at source as he continues in a role he has trademarked — the undemonstrative, hyper-efficient defensive midfielder who hoovers up loose balls and moves them on to more creative teammates.

PIRLO vs VIEIRA

Pirlo has risen to the occasion and he peaked in the semi-final when his umpteenth probing pass finally opened up the German defence to set up Fabio Grosso for the breakthrough goal. He likes to sit at the heart of midfield and spray passes short and long and one of Vieira’s many tasks will be to pressurise him into missing his targets.

After a quiet season for Juventus, Vieira is now flourishing and when freed from his usual destructive duties might have Pirlo doing some chasing of his own having twice found the net.

ZAMBROTTA vs ABIDAL

Zambrotta lines up at right back but has spent so much of this tournament on the attack that he could be called a winger. Superb stamina allows him to make endless overlapping forays and once in the danger area his delivery is usually good — he set up Luca Toni for Italy’s third goal against Ukraine after opening the scoring himself. France will hope Florent Malouda forces Zambrotta to concentrate on his defensive role but when he does break it will fall to the impressive Eric Abidal to keep him in check.

RIBERY vs GROSSO

Ribery began the tournament having never started a game for France but finishes it as an automatic choice and his side’s productive source of attacking ammunition. He has grabbed his opportunity, playing as an old-fashioned winger, happy with the ball at his feet and prepared to take on his fullback at pace and deliver a series of crosses. Italy will throw midfielder Simone Perrotta in his path with the long-legged Grosso ready to provide a second barrier.
 
(REUTERS)

http://www.telegraphindia.com/1060708/asp/sports/story_6452851.asp
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