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Six key contests that could decide the final

Written by: Staff

BERLIN, July 7 (Reuters) Six individual contests that could be the key to deciding Sunday's World Cup final between Italy and France: FABIO CANNAVARO v THIERRY HENRY Exactly what the World Cup final should be about -- a supreme defender and captain doing everything he can to shackle the tournament's most naturally talented forward, who will need to use all his sublime skills to find a way through.

Cannavaro has been immense, leading by example and organising a defence that has been pierced only by an own goal.

His reading of the game, anticipation and pace leave him in his work, his vast experience helps him stay calm even in the most heated exchanges while his athleticism means he is rarely beaten in the air despite being just 1.75 metres tall.

He faces the ultimate test in his 100th international in the form of the brooding brilliance of Henry, who scored the winner against Brazil in the quarter-finals and earned the penalty that beat Portugal in the semi-finals.

Henry's pace, delicate touch and vision mark him as a special striker and the battle for an inch of space inside the penalty area should be engrossing.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE v GENNARO GATTUSO Zidane may be dreaming of a fairytale finale to his career but Beauty and the Beast might not be the story that he wanted to go out on.

This contest between the stylish creator and the dedicated destroyer is football in a microcosm and could be hugely important in deciding the outcome.

Zidane has improved with every round so he is now bestriding the pitch with almost all the majesty and arrogant superiority he displayed in inspiring France to their 1998 success.

He is the perfect target for Gattuso, a terrier of a midfielder who is massively committed, a brilliant tackler and tireless worker in front of the back four. Gattuso will revel in tracking Zidane's every move and making his presence felt.

Zidane knows there will not get a second's peace from the AC Milan workhorse and will need all his special tricks to get away from him.


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