As the FIFA World Cup finalists prepare to meet again in Paris on Wednesday night, the France squad appear to have anything but revenge on their minds.
Italy lifted the ultimate prize at the expense of their neighbours but Les Bleus are refusing to dwell on what might have been in Berlin. Having got their UEFA EURO 2008™ campaign off to a winning start in Georgia on Saturday, those gathering at Clairefontaine are fully focused on the matter in hand. "The aim is to score points," said Lilian Thuram, the evergreen defender determined to have one last hurrah with the national team. "Revenge is for the fans, not the players. Should we win, we won't lift the World Cup at the end of the game."
Thierry Henry had a similar sentiment. "It's the start of a new competition," he said. "It has nothing to do with the old one. It's not boxing, where you put your crown on the line with each fight." Thuram and Henry, part of the triumphant UEFA EURO 2000™ side, would be expected to utter such well-judged words, but youthful playmaker Franck Ribéry underlined that footballing sense was not restricted to veterans of former glories. "We must not play the game in our heads before playing on the pitch," he said.
Perhaps understandably, coach Raymond Domenech appears to be an exception to the rule. Especially given that he masterminded his squad's run to the World Cup final, against all expectation and with many questioning his ability, and then saw them lose on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the Olympiastadion. Domenech, who had stood motionless as the Azzurri celebrated in the German capital, has said he is yet to accept what happened, adding: "It's a permanent disappointment to me."
The two chief protagonists from the 9 July encounter will be missing this time. Zinédine Zidane and Marco Materazzi, who traded goals for France and Italy before coming together in headline-hitting circumstances, will be sidelined through retirement and suspension respectively. Also out is the injured David Trezeguet whose penalty failure confirmed France's 4-2 defeat on spot-kicks. The trio's absence will only help to distance the Group B match from all that has gone before.
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