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Position by position look at likely final teams

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, July 7 (Reuters) World Cup finalists Italy and France are two well matched sides, with strong defences and plenty of creativity in midfield. Man for man, Italy may have a touch of extra quality and that could prove decisive on Sunday.

GOALKEEPERS: Italy's Gianluigi Buffon has been nigh on faultless at this World Cup. Fit again after a shoulder injury, he has conceded just one goal, and that was an own goal.

Opposite number Fabien Barthez, who won a close race with Gregory Coupet for the job in goal, has been generally excellent but he did show signs of nerves in the semi-final victory over Portugal, with a late fumble almost giving away an equaliser.

DEFENCE: Italy: Both teams have outstanding centre-back partnerships. Fabio Cannavaro was an immense presence in Italy's semi-final win over Germany and he is a strong candidate for the Golden Ball award.

Marco Materazzi is a less elegant player but still effective.

William Gallas and Lilian Thuram form an equally effective shield for France. They had an easier job in their semi-final against Portugal, who lacked a quality centre-forward.

Italy's fullbacks both like to attack. Gianluca Zambrotta is capable of causing great damage breaking forward down the right.

On the left, Fabio Grosso is also a menacing player. He won the penalty that gave Italy the win over Australia and scored the crucial first goal in the semi-final against Germany.

French right back Willy Sagnol is also a useful player in attack and is known as an outstanding crosser of the ball.

On the French left, Eric Abidal is a fine defender but gets forward less often.

MIDFIELD: France need Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira to win their battle with Gennaro Gattuso for control of midfield.


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