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Rediff.com  » Sports » Age behind them, Zidane and Co eye the Cup

Age behind them, Zidane and Co eye the Cup

June 12, 2006 15:15 IST

Zinedine Zidane and company will start finding out whether they are still young enough to dream, when France face Switzerland in their World Cup opener tomorrow.

The 34-year-old midfielder and a few other ageing players from the team's triumphs at the 1998 World Cup and 2000 European championship will retire after the finals in Germany and would love to do so on a high note.

Several members of that golden generation, including Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Patrick Vieira, have looked rusty in warm-up games.

They must now step up a gear at the Gottlieb Daimler Stadion, Switzerland being France's toughest opponents in Group G which also features South Korea and Togo.

Switzerland, much improved in the past few years, showed they should not be taken lightly when they held France to two draws in World Cup qualifying.

''When we play against France we could play them 10 times and perhaps win twice, so we have to hope one of those wins will come tomorrow,'' said Swiss coach Koebi Kuhn.

''We have a young, hungry side that wants to show something.''

A lot has been made in the Swiss camp of the fact that France striker Thierry Henry missed their last two meetings through injuries.

''He [Henry] is one of the best strikers in the world, if not the best, and I see his inclusion as an important difference to the two qualifying matches,'' said Kuhn, who was hoping defender Philippe Senderos could tame his Arsenal team mate.

France's build-up was smooth until striker Djibril Cisse broke his right leg in their final friendly, a 3-1 win over China in St Etienne.

''We feel he's still with us,'' said midfielder Claude Makelele. ''We'll try to go as far as we can and he will get there with us, in a way.''

The France players said there was a good atmosphere in the team, unlike 2002.

Internal squabbling marred their run then and the champions were eliminated without a win or a goal from the group stage.

''We are all aware we made mistakes in 2002 and we will not repeat them,'' said Makelele.

''We were all worn out then and that played an important role.

"We're a lot fresher this time and we want to go all the way. That's the goal, to lift that trophy.''

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