Rocheteau: It's bound to be very tight
Former France striker Dominique Rocheteau reminisces about the FranceItaly clashes he was involved in, and looks forward to the upcoming Final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany.
FIFAworldcup.com: What memories do you have of the game against Italy back at Argentina 1978?
Rocheteau: I was a substitute for that match and looked on from the bench. It was the first World Cup for our generation and we were drawn in a very tough group with Italy and the hosts. We started off well against Italy thanks to a very early goal from Bernard Lacombe, but they made their experience and determination count in the end. Without a shadow of a doubt, the Italians fully deserved to win.
At Mexico 1986, you managed to get your revenge with a 2-0 win.
We did indeed. We were a more experienced, mature team then, and after winning the 1984 European Championship and reaching the semi-finals at Spain 1982, we had lots of confidence too. We knew we could compete with the big boys. That said, we didn't want to finish second in our group because that meant facing Italy in the second round and Brazil in the last eight. Even so, we managed to make it all the way to the semi-finals. People don't really remember the Italy game too much because of the Brazil match that followed it; that's the one that really sticks in people's minds. We probably played our best against the Italians. We won 2-0 and I remember setting up Michel Platini for a goal, which was funny because he often complained I didn't do that enough! (laughs)
Read about the history between France and Italy
Let's move on now to the Final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup on Sunday evening.
They're the two best teams in the tournament along with Argentina perhaps, who played extremely well in the group phase. France and Italy are the two teams who have handled the competition best. The match will hinge on the smallest of details. It's bound to be very tight, and whoever scores first will take a huge step towards the title. I expect tactics to play a big part and the coaches will have a big say in things. I really hope France can score as quickly as possible and win it 1-0 in normal time.
In view of recent encounters between the two, do you think France have a psychological advantage over Italy?
They have the best two defences in the competition and both sides are packed with world-class players. That said, Italy can't call on players of the stature of (Zinedine) Zidane or (Thierry) Henry. And the way France have progressed in Germany has reminded me of Italy back in 1982 in the way they've gone from strength to strength after a real struggle to get out of their group. The Italians have a lot of attacking potential up front, but don't use it enough. Lippi prefers to keep it tight at the back and then go for victory at the end of the game by throwing his front men forward. It's a tactic that has worked well for them as they've twice won games right at the death here.
Which of today's players most closely resembles Dominique Rocheteau?
There's not really anyone in Raymond Domenech's side that is the same type of player as I was. Robert Pires is probably most like me: he plays in virtually the same way I did. As for the current team, I suppose I would say (Frank) Ribery, although in terms of his temperament at least, he's more like the new Jean-Pierre Papin.
One last question. What does the name Marco Tardelli mean to you?
We never actually played against each other in an international. He played in the 1978 game, while I was on the bench, and in 1986 the roles were reversed. He was a fantastic player. He won everything there was to win for club and country, and like everyone else, the image that springs to mind is him celebrating his goal in the Final at Spain 1982. He went on that evening to become a world champion something I never managed.
Read Marco Tardelli's thoughts on the Final