Azzurri no longer fear France
By Chris Stanton
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
Gianluigi Buffon has backed Italy to avenge their 1998 quarter final defeat to France.
Gianluigi Buffon has backed Italy to avenge their quarter final defeat to France eight years ago and become world champions for a fourth time on Sunday.
Anticipation is building for the showpiece final in Berlin, with both Italy and France seeming to have hit form at just the right moment following semi-final victories over Germany and Portugal respectively.
However goalkeeper Buffon believes the Azzurri hold the upper hand and insists the team now have the confidence they lacked when they last faced the French in World Cup competition.
Then Les Bleus triumphed in a quarter final penalty shoot-out en route to their 1998 tournament win.
Over half of the French side which finished that clash are present in Raymond Domenech's 2006 squad but Buffon, 27, claims that could work to the Italians' advantage.
"In comparison to the 1998 World Cup, the national team of Italy is less worried," said Buffon.
"France were at home that time and eight years younger.
"We were just playing them in the quarter finals.
"We had won a few matches but we did not have the confidence needed to beat them.
"This year we have done well in our games and have the conviction that we can keep this up right to the end."
Buffon's Azzurri team-mate, Gennaro Gattuso has also backed his side to scupper Zinedine Zidane's hopes of a perfect swansong.
Sunday's match will be Zidane's last before hanging up his boots and Gattuso, in hailing the French veteran's talent, hopes the former Real Madrid star may not have 'much petrol left in the engine'.
Gattuso insists Italy have no specific means to combat the threat of Zidane and dismissed suggestions he will be employed as a man-marker.
"I've played against Zidane before but I've never man-marked him. Obviously if he is in my zone then it will be more my job to take care of him than Andrea Pirlo's but it's not man-marking," said Gattuso.
"You don't stop Zidane, maybe he stops himself if he is not in form.
"But he's 34 and playing in his last game. We have to hope that on Sunday he doesn't have much petrol left in the engine."