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Zidane Leads France to World Cup Final
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Thanks to a half-hour penalty, France edged semifinal rivals Portugal 1-0 in Munich on Wednesday to reach the World Cup final.

Les Bleus was awarded the penalty after Thierry Henry was brought down by Ricardo Carvalho just inside the area in 32 minutes while turning inside the box.

Zinedine Zidane took a two-step walk-up on the next minute, while Portugal keeper Ricardo dived the correct way to his right, got a hand to it, but failed to keep it out.

It will be France's second ever appearance in a World Cup final. The other was their famous 2-0 victory at home over Brazilin 1998.

With just a few minutes to go, French fans in one corner of the stadium started singing "La Marseillaise," the French anthem, and followed with chants of "Allez Les Bleus!"

It also snapped a 19-match unbeaten run of Portugal, led by Luis Felipe Scolari who had expected his 13th World Cup victory in Wednesday's semifinal clash.

The Portuguese advanced to the World Cup semifinals for just the second time, with the last time in 1966 when Eusebio and former French captain Michel Platini were lined up.

Portugal came closest to scoring in the 78th minute, when goalkeeper Fabien Barthez failed to hold a free kick by Cristiano Ronaldo but Luis Figo headed the rebound over the bar. Goalkeeper Ricardo rushed into the French half after three minute into the stoppage time, but helped little in Portuguese attack.

France had more possessions in the opening minutes, but it's Luis Felipe Scolari's side who turned out to be more dangerous in front of the goalmouth.

Deco was set up by Ronaldo on the edge of the area in just 4 minutes, and his shot forced a full stretch dive from Barthez to save.

Maniche also showed unprecedented prowess in shooting, letting fly with a fierce drive which went narrowly over the bar after nine minutes.

The Portuguese defense, however, suffered a slow and nervous start. Nuno Valente panicked at the back and conceded an unnecessary corner in 7 minutes. Zinedine Zidane launched the corner only to see it cleared by Maniche.

(Xinhua News Agency July 6, 2006)

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