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Friday, 30 June, 2000, 15:56 GMT 16:56 UK
French silk to overcome Italy's steel
Gerard Houllier's Euro 2000 Final verdict
Gerard Houllier talks exclusively to BBC Sport Online as he previews the Euro 2000 Final between France and Italy in Rotterdam.

France and Italy will present vastly contrasting styles in the Euro 2000 Final - but I expect the greater expression of the French to prove the deciding factor.

I think the Italian defensive set up is even better than France's, but I feel the more expressive nature of France, and their all round team strength, means they will be winners.

I expect this to be a very close game. It is tough to pick a winner because Italy are a very good team when it comes to producing results. They have the record to prove it.

Italy have grown up as a team in this tournament. They impressed me with their mental and physical strength against Holland.

There was a suggestion that the Italian camp was unsettled before the tournament, but Dino Zoff has been successful in building a team unit and there have been no signs of this during the last three weeks.

Quality and patience

And Italy have regained their old mentality. They have rediscovered their old determination to give absolutely nothing away.

Italy have, however, shown throughout games that they want to win - and they have carried out their mission.

Alessandro Nesta - outstanding
I know people said they were defensive against Holland, and of course this was their strength, but they also know that they have the quality and patience to wait for their chance.

Nesta has been magnificent. The boss of Italy's defence

Gerard Houllier
Italy have a truly outstanding defender in Alessandro Nesta. He has been magnificent, the real boss of the defensive side of their game.

Italy's midfield may not be the most creative they have ever had, but they have hard workers who press the ball carrier, and win the important challenges.

In attack, Inzaghi and Totti are very dangerous, and it would not be right to suggest that the quality in Italy's team is confined merely to the defensive aspects.

I do feel, however, that there are some key elements in the way the French tournament has unfolded that makes them my choice as winners.

France have great resilience to go with their creativity

Gerard Houllier
I suspect France may have an added freshness because of the way the games have gone. They have been able to rest players in the early stages, and of course the Italy players were subjected to extra-time in a very tough semi-final against Holland.


We should also not forget, when talking about the Italy defence, that France have an outstanding defence of their own with players like Marcel Desailly and Lilian Thuram.

Desailly rivals Italy's best
France have a very competitive edge. They will not be deflected from what they want to do, even if they go a goal behind. They have the resilience to cope with it, not just creativity.

And they also have players with the greater expression, such as Zinedine Zidane in midfield and in attack they have outstanding young players in Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka.

It will be truly fascinating to see how they cope when faced with the Italian defence.

It will be very competitive, very close, and very hard fought. But I feel France may just have the extra edge in freshness and flair that will ensure they win what has been an outstanding tournament.

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Italy
Toldo makes his mark
29 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Italy through on penalties
28 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Zidane sends France through
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