France coach Raymond Domenech will hope to complete his rehabilitation by leading his team to victory over Portugal in Munich.
Domenech arrived at the World Cup the subject of ridicule back in his homeland. He, and his players hardly endeared themselves to the French public with their laboured performances in the group stages, but since the arrival of the knockout phase, the team, and the perception of Domenech has been transformed.
Victory over Spain was followed by France’s finest performance since Euro 2000 when they vanquished pre-tournament favourites Brazil. Integral to that win, and indeed France’s hopes will be the imperious Zidane, who is looking to retire from the game with a second World Cup title.
Zidane was at his best in the win over Brazil and a repeat of that performance will surely be enough for the ageing French team to reach the final.
France have won the past seven meetings with Portugal, including in the semi-finals of Euro 2000, but despite their historical hold over their opponents, neither Domenech nor his players are taking anything for granted.
“They (Portugal) have players of talent, who are organised well, who can defend and cause you problems,” Domenech said.
“Portugal are a quality side who have proved capable of imposing their style of play on their rivals.
“I don’t know coach Luiz Felipe Scolari but I think he was a world champion with Brazil, wasn’t he?
“Our objective remains 9 July (the date of the final) but to get there we must be better still, because Portugal did not get to the semi-final by accident.”
Defender Lilian Thuram echoed Domenech’s respect for Portugal.
“They have been very good in defence and have hardly conceded any goals,” said Thuram.
“It will be very difficult and harder than Brazil.
“It will be a close match because a place in the World Cup final is at stake and no-one will want to take unnecessary risks but I think the game will be played in good spirit.
“Since we started the World Cup the team has continued to get better as the tournament has progressed match after match and we must hope that trend continues against Portugal.”
One concern for France and something that could inhibit them tonight is the number of players on yellow cards.
France have six players who are one booking away from a suspension and defender William Gallas warned: “Portugal will try and do everything to destabilise us.”
“In this sort of match we must be careful of the Portuguese – they like diving, you can see that.”
Zinedine Zidane, Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Willy Sagnol and Franck Ribery are all likely to start on Wednesday and will not play in the final if they pick up a yellow.
In contrast to Domenech, opposite number Luiz Felipe Scolari has found himself under attack for the way in which Portugal have progressed.
However, Scolari has defended his side’s approach at the World Cup.
“It’s a joke,” he said. “Anyone who says that doesn’t know what they are talking about.
“There are many players in Portugal, Brazil, Kuwait, France who occasionally do things that aren’t correct.”
“It is a war of words, a game of interests to sell more newspapers.
“We are simply going to concentrate on the athletes of the French football team.
“Costinha had a great career in France with Monaco, and he was such a sportsman they called him The Minister.”
It is 31 years since Portugal beat France, but Scolari sees an opportunity tonight to end that run.
“But we are playing very well, so we can change that history. The favourite does not always win.
“I don’t have an explanation why we haven’t won in 31 years but we hadn’t beaten Brazil since 1966 and we beat them in 2003. We couldn’t beat Spain for many years and we also beat them recently.”
Scolari believes Portugal’s “warrior spirit” will see them prevail tonight.
“We had the chance to create a piece of history at Euro 2004 and we didn’t take it,” he said.
“Now we have got another chance to make history at the World Cup.
“The spirit of this team is remarkable. This is a new team and it’s a new spirit. It’s a warrior spirit. This is what we were missing in the past.”
Costinha and Deco are both available after suspension and are expected to return to the starting line-up.
With Petit banned, Costinha may be given the role of shadowing Zidane, while Deco is likely to replace either Tiago or Maniche and provide the link between midfield and attack.
Cristiano Ronaldo and Luis Figo are both carrying knocks and, should either miss out, Simao Sabrosa will to come into the side.
“The probability at the moment is that Cristiano has a better chance of recovering,” Scolari said of the duo.
France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Vieira, Makelele, Ribery, Zidane, Malouda, Henry.
Portugal: Ricardo, Miguel, Carvalho, Meira, Valente, Costinha, Maniche, Deco, Figo, Ronaldo, Pauleta.
Referee:: Jorge Larrionda (Uruguay)