Euro 2000 News
 Soccernet Home
 Euro 2000 Home
 Group A
 Group B
 Group C
 Group D
Quick jump:

 ESPN Network:
 Fantasy Games

Updated Sunday July 2, 2000
Zizou is the boss now, says Vieira
By Joe Melling in Rotterdam

The Final - France v Italy, Sunday 7.00pm BST

Zinedine Zidane marches imperiously into the Euro 2000 final against Italy in Rotterdam bolstered by the ultimate accolade from his team-mates.

Patrick Vieira
Patrick Vieira: ZZ equal to Platini
The finest footballer on the planet has produced a string of sublime displays as history beckons France to become the first team to hold both world and European crowns at the same time.

And in the ever-changing landscape of international football, Zidane's performances over the past three weeks have been heralded by his colleagues. Arsenal's Patrick Vieira explained: 'Zizou is the new boss of the French squad.

'In the past we have had key players, the big personalities of the team who act as our leaders, like Didier Deschamps, Laurent Blanc and Marcel Desailly. Now Zizou is the boss. He's recognised by us as being the equal to the all-time France great, Michel Platini.

'I'm not surprised by the level of performance we've seen from him in these finals. I see it every day in training. But during Euro 2000 you have seen his personality develop.'

Zidane's inexorable climb to the summit of his profession has not affected the son of an Algerian immigrant, who grew up in the tough Marseille district of La Castellane. He is softly spoken and shy off the field, but with justification he pointed out: 'I don't speak a lot, but when I do, people listen to me.'

The 28-year-old, however, is the first to admit that somewhere along the way between the respective finals of the world's two most prestigious football occasions he lost his way a little.

'For at least a year after we won the World Cup against Brazil I felt as though I was floating a metre above the ground,' he confessed. 'It was unreal, a fantasy that I did not want to end. But all of the time I knew that it would.

'There were times when I could not see straight. I could not focus because of all the attention heaped upon the French players. Every time we stepped out on to the pitch, people expected us to play like world champions. We had to be special every single day. It was not humanly possible.

'I know I have been poor in many games for both Juventus and France. I have not lived up to the expectation and that has been a real disappointment because I set myself high standards.

'In my mind I kept looking back to the wonderful night of that World Cup final, how I had helped to win the trophy in front of our own fans with a million people lining the streets of Paris to thank us.

'It was hard to believe there could ever be anything better than that. I had to wake myself up. When people started to talk of me as the best player in the world, I knew it was an honour I did not deserve.

'There was something holding me back which I could not understand. For the first year after Paris I was fine. I was living on the adrenalin, like all of the French players, but then I felt I hit a wall.

'In this European Championship I think I have begun to climb over that wall and I can see the other side. I feel happy with my game and the influence I have on the team. People have also begun to believe in France again and that lifts me.'

France will be looking to Zidane again tonight to breach the wall that is the brilliant Italian defence, for it is his power and purpose which fills them with trepidation.

Dino Zoff's men have had 24 hours less recovery time than the French after their respective semi-finals and there is fierce determination within the French camp to be recognised unequivocally as worthy champions.

Zidane is undoubtedly ready for the challenge. 'Sometimes I don't know what takes me over during a game,' he said. 'Sometimes I just feel I have moved to a different place and I can make the pass, score the goal or go past my marker at will.

'It is not arrogance. It is simply being able to make the most of the gifts I have been given.

'We have come through the bad times as individuals and collectively as a squad. Now we have to show Europe and the rest of the world we can cope with our success.'

France (probable): Barthez; Thuram, Desailly, Blanc, Lizarazu; Vieira, Deschamps, Petit, Zidane; Henry, Anelka.

Italy (probable): Toldo; Iuliano, Nesta, Cannavaro; Maldini, Pessotto, Albertini, Di Biagio, Fiore; Del Piero, Inzaghi.

Referee: Anders Frisk (Sweden)

Copyright 1999,2000 ESPN Internet Ventures. Click here for Terms of Use and UPDATED Privacy Policy applicable to this site.
Cannavaro: French so hard to break

Platini: Final will be a close call