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Saturday, 1 July, 2000, 10:32 GMT 11:32 UK
Zidane holds the key
Zidane is the man Italy must stop
Alan Hansen tells BBC Sport Online why he believes French flair will tilt the balance in the Euro 2000 Final.

Italy's tactical approach - and the performance of the great Zinedine Zidane - will dictate the outcome of the Euro 2000 Final.

And I believe there is one absolute certainty among all the other imponderables when the flair of France meets the immovable object of Italian defence in Rotterdam.

Italy will adopt exactly the same approach to France as they did when smothering Holland in blanket defence in the semi-final.

They may, in fact, adopt an even more cautious approach because they are facing a far superior team in France than they were against the Dutch.

If Italy were worried about what Holland might do to them, then they have every reason to be 10 times more worried about France.

Positive approach

I was highly critical of Italy's display against Holland, but only because I believe with the players they have, they could adopt a far more positive approach.

Italy's defensive approach is not against the law. They are masters of the art

Alan Hansen
We must stress one thing, however. Italy's approach is not against the laws of football, and unless a team emerges that is good enough to stick five or six goals past them, then they have every right to play as they do.

Italy are masters of their particular art, whether the purists like it or not.

They ensured the semi-final was dead as a spectacle, but in the end it totally served their purposes and Italy must be given credit for that.

This is the challenge facing the French in Rotterdam, and this is why Zidane will be a key element of the Euro 2000 Final.

Toldo - influential figure
Zidane has been exceptional in this tournament. He has supreme control and touch, and one more big performance may be enough to give France the European Championship to add to the World Cup they won on home soil two years ago.

If the game is to become the fitting finale this outstanding tournament deserves, then the ideal start would be for France to kick off and immediately score.

This would force Italy out of their traditional game plan, and make them attack, and I genuinely believe there is the quality in the Italian side to make it a fantastic final if they go for it.

The ideal start would be for France to kick off and immediately score

Alan Hansen
The onus will be on the French to take the initiative, and in men like Zidane, Thierry Henry and Nicolas Anelka, they have the players to do it.

I also think Patrick Vieira has been terrific for France in the tournament, and it is no reflection on him that much of the attention has been placed on Zidane.

But they will be faced by Italy's Alessandro Nesta, who has been an awesome presence in defence. He produced the outstanding individual performance of the tournament against Holland.

Francesco Toldo has proved to be an excellent goalkeeper for Italy, recovering well from a mistake early in Euro 2000 against Turkey, and he will be an important figure in the final.

Long in the tooth

And if Italy do choose to attack, they will be aware that in men like Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, France have one or two players who may be considered by some to be getting a bit long in the tooth.

I have been impressed by Stefano Fiore for Italy, and I do think there is another side to their game that perhaps we have not seen yet.

Euro ref
Referee Anders Frisk
And if we see more of Filippo Inzaghi and Alessandro del Piero then the French defence could be in for an interesting evening.

If referee Anders Frisk can keep things flowing, then there may just be a chance that we will get the showpiece final everyone wants.

I did not fancy the Italians before the tournament started, but the more I have watched them the more I have been impressed.

Italy must not be written off against France, because they have shown a formidable capacity for getting the results they need.

France, however, have the quality to beat any team, and what a great end to Euro 2000 it would be if Zidane produced another of those virtuoso performances that have illuminated the competition.

The French are my pick as winners - but history tells you never to write off the Italians if all parts of their plan fall into place.

Search BBC Euro 2000


See also:

30 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Final advert for Serie A
30 Jun 00 | Euro2000
France v Italy: Head to head
30 Jun 00 | Italy
Toldo makes his mark
29 Jun 00 | Euro2000
Italy through on penalties
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