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France vs. Italy

SITE: Saint-Denis

TIME: 7:30 a.m. TV: ESPN2, Ch. 34. RADIO: KWKW (1330 Spanish)

* ABOUT FRANCE: After scoring seven goals against two of the weakest teams in the World Cup, Saudi Arabia and South Africa, France has managed only two goals in the last 204 minutes--one (plus a penalty kick) against Denmark, one in 114 minutes against Paraguay. France Coach Aime Jacquet is hopeful the return of playmaking midfielder Zinedine Zidane from a two-game suspension will enliven his team’s attack. Thierry Henry, France’s top scorer with three goals, probably won’t play because of a sprained ankle.

* ABOUT ITALY: Coach Cesare Maldini jokes that today’s World Cup quarterfinal is actually a match between two Italian teams, noting that 11 members of the French squad have played or are still competing in Italy’s top professional league, Serie A. Striker Christian Vieri, tied for most goals in the tournament with five, played with Zidane on Italian champion Juventus; Paolo Maldini and Alessandro Costacurta are AC Milan teammates of French defender Marcel Desailly.

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* OUTLOOK: France couldn’t score for 113 minutes against Paraguay, advancing only because Paraguay had nothing with which to threaten the French defense. Italy, however, has Vieri and Alessandro Del Piero, who scored 30 goals for Juventus last season but is still waiting for his first in the World Cup. One Italian goal is all it should take.


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