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By ESPN Staff

Vieira: Age is no barrier to French success

France midfielder Patrick Vieira believes Les Bleus have now answered the critics who deemed them too old to make an impression at the World Cup.

Vieira, 30, is among the older players Raymond Domenech's team who have exceeded expectations and earned a place semi-final following the victory over Brazil.

Domenech was criticised for picking an ageing squad, and France were in danger of failing to reach the knockout stages before beating Togo in their final group game.

Beating Spain in the second round earned a fixture with Brazil, and now only Portugal stand in their way from the final.

'Of course this is the best answer we can give,' said former Arsenal captain Vieira.

'I think a lot of people have placed too much emphasis on the age factor but they are now beginning to focus on what we are doing the pitch.'

Thierry Henry, who scored the only goal of the game against Brazil, added: 'People were killing us from day one saying that this team is too old, at the end of the day we responded well. We have kept on going.'

The 1998 World Cup winner have found their stride at the right time of the competition, beating a young Spanish side 3-1 in the second round.

The win warmed up the French engine for the 1998 final re-match against Brazil.

'Against Spain we faced a difficult game and we played well,' said Juventus midfielder Vieira.

'The game against Brazil was a challenge from the start but we were really strong, we worked as a team and we fought very hard for 90 minutes.

'The key to our victory was the fact that we didn't give them any space, the line was really tight and they couldn't play their game.

'We had fun because we beat a really good team.

'People are still talking a little bit too much but we are just enjoying the ride.'

Henry believes that five-time world champions Brazil can go home with their heads held up high because they lost against a great French team.

'I think the fact that we beat Brazil has more meaning for the media than for us,' he said.

'We've won our semi-final and it just so happened that it was against Brazil.

'We respect them and we will continue to respect them for a very long time, this is football.'

Now the French take on Portugal in a re-match of the Euro 2000 semi-final, which France won with a Zinedine Zidane penalty to reach the final which they eventually won against Italy.

Portugal will like their chances, especially with Luiz Felipe Scolari at the helm. Scolari was in charge of Brazil when they won the World Cup in Japan and Korea four years ago.

'It's going to be a very difficult game against Portugal,' said Vieira.

'When you arrive at this level of the competition every team is challenging.'

Henry agreed: 'We haven't done anything yet, we have to maintain our focus and continue to play as we are doing.'