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Just meant to be, for Zizou

Some things, you suspect, are just meant to be. Like, for instance, when Zinedine Zidane announced he would be coming out of his self-enforced international retirement, claiming he had heard angels’ voices in the night telling him that his country needed him; like when he said this World Cup would be the last we saw of him kicking a ball.

The whole of France wanted to believe that their hero would make a difference. Now he has, initially with his unique mastery of the ball and on Wednesday night with a penalty that takes Les Bleus to Berlin on Sunday for a date with destiny.

When Thierry Henry theatrically crashed to the floor shortly before half-time having felt Ricardo Carvalho’s boot touch his shin pad, there was only going to be one man taking the spot kick. With sweat dripping from his face, Zidane steadied himself. Taking a very short run-up, he needed only two steps to generate enough power and accuracy to beat the goalkeeper's grasp and find the left-hand corner.

After the tense semi-final win over Portugal, there can be no doubt now that the final scene has been set. All it needs is for the leading man to step from the wings and deliver a virtuoso performance before the curtain falls. The initial signs, it must be said, had not been great in this World Cup as Zidane’s displays against Switzerland and South Korea in the opening two games looked like those of a footballer well over the hill.

Then came the magic after a break through suspension: two dazzling displays ' the first against Spain, the second even more memorable against a submissive Brazil.

Thirty-four years of age' This three-time World Player of the Year was playing with all the zest of the hungry kid plucked from the mean streets of Marseille by French club Cannes at the age of 14.

For Zidane, there was only one target this year. Far from happy with the way things were going at his club Real Madrid, France’s highly decorated captain decided to concentrate on making sure he was in the right shape for these World Cup Finals.

Nothing else mattered. People who know him well say that everything Zidane did, whether it looked good or not, was geared towards reaching peak form and fitness in Germany. Zidane went on to show the familiar touches ' the drag-backs and flicks, the cheeky little passes ' as coach Raymond Domenech’s side hung on to the narrowest of leads. In the end, it was just about enough.

The legs have nearly deserted him now. That much is sure. They don’t have much left to give before the game is up. Yet that game only entails another 90 minutes or 120 if extra time on Sunday tests the stamina. Zidane should be capable of that. He has been planning it all year.

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