Figo, Zidane meet again in semi-final showdown
MUNICH, July 4: Luis Figo and Zinedine Zidane, having seen off friends, rivals and fellow national team captains from their Real Madrid days, meet again tomorrow in a showdown between the original, and greatest, galacticos.
One will survive and the other will leave football's greatest stage for the last time when the lights go out at the Allianz Arena following the first World Cup meeting between Portugal and France in a keenly-anticipated semi-final.
Figo, the winger who has drifted inside to become Portugal's most creative influence in their best World Cup for 40 years, bade fellow number seven and skipper David Beckham adios after beating England in a shootout in Saturday's quarter-final.
Beckham has since stood down as England captain.
Zidane, the inspirational and majestic France skipper, has said goodbye to fellow captain Raul, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos as his revitalised team swept aside Spain and Brazil.
Roberto Carlos has since retired from playing for Brazil while question marks also hover over the futures of his Real team mates Ronaldo and Raul at club and international level.
Yet, little more than a year ago, Figo and Zidane were themselves in retirement from their national teams, fatigued, bruised and demoralised by the pressures and criticism that followed Euro 2004.
Their comebacks, like those of all great performers, have proved the old adage that form may be temporary, but class is permanent.
Zidane, who was 34 on June 23, the evening when without him due to suspension a struggling France beat Togo 2-0 and secured a place in the second round, is retiring after this tournament.