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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Jul 6, 2006

'France are final favourites', says Del Piero

DUISBURG, Germany, July 6 (Reuters) - France start as favourites to win the World Cup final because they are less stressed than Italy, Azzurri forward Alessandro Del Piero said on Thursday.

'I think France are slight favourites because they are certainly going into this game with less stress than us,' said the striker, who scored Italy's second goal in their 2-0 extra-time win over Germany on Tuesday after coming on as a substitute.

While Italy had to battle out over 120 minutes against a determined host nation in Dortmund, France had a more straightforward 1-0 victory in normal time against Portugal. Del Piero said there were also other factors behind Italy's stress - including the Serie A match-fixing scandal.

'In France there isn't the same chaos that we have in Italy that involves our club sides and there isn't the same coverage from the press and television that we have,' said Del Piero, who has had a difficult relationship with the Italian media.

The Juventus forward said that he was pleased to be meeting the French and his old team mate Zinedine Zidane in the Berlin final.

'It is really going to be a fascinating match, it couldn't be better than France v Italy, given that both sides have some incredible players, above all 'Zizou'. At this moment I think there aren't two teams better suited for a final than these two,' he said.

Del Piero played with Zidane for Juventus from 1996 until the Frenchman's move to Real Madrid in 2001 and said he was full of admiration for the midfielder who is due to retire after the final.

'I had a very close friendship with him and he has been in magnificent form here although I hope just up until yesterday.

'As a footballer, I don't know what you can add to what everyone says about him - he is the absolute number one,' said Del Piero, who added it was vital Italy kept their eyes on Zidane's team mates.

'They have other players who can hurt you at any moment, we know them well. We will need to be attentive right across the field,' he said.

Unless Italy coach Marcello Lippi pulls another selection surprise, Del Piero will start on the bench against France although he hopes to have more opportunity than he received with his extra-time substitute appearance against Germany.

'My only thought is to make the most of whatever chance I am given. It is not easy to come on in the final minutes and score. It would be fantastic if I had more time available to me,' he said.

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