By Amjad Baker
Italy will be in for a very testing time when they meet their French rivals at 18:00 GMT tonight in Rotterdam to play the Euro 2000 final. For the Italians, it is not only a match to win the Euro's title, but also an opportunity to take their revenge on the 1998 world cup champions who edged them out of the championship.
Italy may not be favorites for tonight's Euro 2000 finals against the world cup champions, but they have many reasons to win this match other than winning the title.
Italy's coach, who led his team smoothly to Euro 2000 finals with a 100% victorious record, is seeking revenge from the French team who knocked Ceasre Maldini's Italy out of the 1998 world cup quarterfinals with penalties. This sad moment over heated the Italians' blood till the day.
The Italians believe it is time to make the French pay for that unforgettable day.
But the Euro atmosphere is not totally in favor of the Italians. The French side have also kept their winning streak solid enough and reached the final without a single lose or a draw.
They are widely expected to repeat the feat with no need for a spot kick this time, when both parties meet.
Despite the quality in depth of the French squad, and their high performance which proved the talent of their squads, the Italian players still believe that they are ready for this battle which, they are convinced will be in their favor.
Italy's midfield revelation Stefano Fiore told AFP that "It's a European championship final and they've got extraordinary players.
But we're convinced that we can have our say, because we've got a really good team and we've got great morale as a group."
Italy's Alessandro Del Piero, who has experience of the French side, believes that things have changed - the French squads were better than the Italian in the 1998 - but "now we are equal," concluded Del Piero
The only note of caution came from goalkeeper Francesco Toldo, the hero of their semifinals penalty shoot-out with the Dutch.
"They've got truly great players," he told the agency, adding that "they've an attack which is just incredible - Thierry Henry is a very gifted player and he's on form. And we all know (Zinedine) Zidane well.
"We're going to have to be very careful."
Zidane, who made the 1998 world cup night totally French with two half time corner goals and ripped the Brazilians' heart, will have a tough match.
France coach Roger Lemerre revealed on tonight that Emmanuel Petit was doubtful for the Euro 2000 Final with Italy at De Kuip Stadium.
Midfielder Petit has picked up a bug. "We are a bit worried about Emmanuel Petit, he had a slight fever and a cold. He did not train yesterday, he stayed in the hotel. We are waiting and hoping," Lemerre told AFP.
However, it was not made clear whether he would be available for the final.
The French players are determined to " make history by winning the European championship just a short while after winning the World Cup," Lemerre said.
The world cup champion's coach hung heavy responsibilities around the neck of Zidane, his key player and commented that the match will be "both technically and mentally." The coach referred to Zidane's golden penalty winning goal which came in the in the last moments of extra time in the semifinal against Portugal. He commented that "Zidane is a magical player when he has the ball," and added "the golden goal he scored showed he has nerves of steel and of course he is very important for the team," - Albawaba.co
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)