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Silent Zidane aims to say adieu with World Cup win

Written by: Staff

MUNICH, July 6 (Reuters) Zinedine Zidane will say farewell to football and end his extraordinary career at the very top on Sunday when he plays his final game for France against Italy in the World Cup final.

Another age-defying display by the 34-year-old midfield maestro in yesterday's 1-0 semi-final victory over Portugal at the Allianz Arena secured him and France one more night of glory -- and a chance to repeat their 1998 triumph on home soil -- in Berlin.

Yet, typically, after a display that mixed gritty defending and sheer industry with moments of vision and great skill, he departed the Allianz Arena without comment, leaving coach Raymond Domenech and the memories of another fine performance to do his talking for him.

''Yes, it will be the last one for him, the end,'' said Domenech. ''But it is not what he is thinking about. This is not all about Zinedine Zidane's last game -- it is the World Cup final against Italy.

''We don't want things to be mixed up. Yes, it will be the end for Zidane, but so it will for some other players. But this is the World Cup and it will be special to play against Italy.

''That is what is on his mind. And we want to go there to win. It is the same for the others -- for Thuram, for Makelele and for the rest. I said our objective was July 9, but not just that -- we want to win the cup.'' Zidane scored his 30th goal for France in his 107th appearance against Portugal, driving home the penalty after 33 minutes that settled the match.

Asked what he felt Zidane had contributed to French football in his illustrious career that has seen France win the World Cup in 1998 and the 2000 European Championship, Domenech said: ''He is a world champion. He is a real star. His photograph is up on a big wall in Marseille.

''He means so much to the French people, he gives them something to cheer and he has done that now for 10 years. And we hope there will be another day to come on Sunday.'' Reuters DH VP0525

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