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Thuram's childhood dream comes true a second time

Written by: Staff

MUNICH, July 6 (Reuters) France defender Lilian Thuram struggled to comprehend his achievement after winning the right to play in a second World Cup final.

''This will be my second final, this is just unbelievable,'' an elated Thuram said after helping France beat Portugal 1-0 in a tense semi-final with yet another faultless defensive display.

''A World Cup final is a childhood dream,'' added the 34-year-old, who was named man-of-the-match in Munich yesterday's semifinal. ''That second final, I hadn't expected to even have a chance to play it.'' The jewel in France's watertight back four during their triumphant 1998 World Cup campaign, Thuram announced his retirement from international football after the team's quarter-final exit from Euro 2004.

With France struggling to qualify for the finals in Germany, he came back last year, alongside Zinedine Zidane and Claude Makelele.

Unlike the other two, the thoughtful Thuram reluctantly agreed to return, only after coach Raymond Domenech selected him against his will.

''I feel good in that team,'' he said yesterday, obviously glad that he had accepted the coach's call.

''There's a lot of solidarity between us. There were some ego problems earlier in that team but not anymore.'' Thuram, who will retire from the international game after Sunday's final against Italy, for good this time, said he was looking forward to challenging opponents he knows well, having played for Juventus for years.

''I know their players and they're really strong,'' Thuram said of Italy. ''It's probably the best team of the tournament.

Before the finals, I knew they would go a long way.'' Thuram said he knew that of France as well, even when it looked like their ageing bunch of 30-somethings might not survive the group stage.

''The final had been our objective from the start,'' he said.

''Being there is a dream. Missing it would have been a nightmare.'' Reuters DH VP0510

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