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Portugal and France seek place in final
Paul Radford | July 05, 2006 13:09 IST
Germany's [Images] World Cup party may have ended in Dortmund where Italy won 2-0 after extra time with goals from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero but the match was an enthralling, high-quality thriller despite the long deadlock.
Italy were finally rewarded for their more adventurous attacking play -- they finished with four strikers -- a lesson that Portugal may need more than France.
After a sluggish start to the tournament the French have sparkled in their victories over Spain and champions Brazil [Images] in the knockout stage.
Portugal, by contrast, have laboured through with a 1-0 win over the Dutch in a bruising game marked by four red cards and a penalty shootout win over England [Images] after a goalless draw.
France will start as favourites, especially as playmaker Zinedine Zidane [Images] has suddenly found himself on peak form just as he starts to bring down the curtain on his illustrious career.
The French believe history is with them as they have twice beaten Portugal in semi-finals before -- at the 1984 European Championship when they dramatically won 3-2 in extra time and again in Euro 2000 where they won 2-1 with a golden goal, a disputed penalty.
Portugal have never reached a World Cup final and have only appeared in the semi-finals once before -- in 1966 when they lost 2-1 to hosts and eventual winners England.
The Portuguese will have their gifted playmaker Deco back from suspension as well as defensive midfielder Costinha and they will need the talents of both if they are to defeat the rapidly improving French, seeking a second world title following their 1998 victory over Brazil in Paris.
Portugal, who will be without another midfielder through suspension, Armando Petit, are seeking revenge for the controversial Euro 2000 defeat which ended in a fracas.
"The 2000 game has stuck in our throats a bit," said striker Helder Postiga. The way we lost was frustrating. We started well and thought we would win. I hope the story is different this time."
France have won their last seven meetings against Portugal but do not necessarily anticipate an easy time. Midfielder Franck Ribery, one of the tournament's emerging players, said: "I think it will be tougher against Portugal. They have talented players like Brazil and they are better organised as a team."