Last orders before France and Italy march on Berlin

France coach Raymond Domenech and his Italian counterpart Marcello Lippi were both gathering their troops on Friday for one last effort aimed at winning the World Cup final in Berlin on Sunday.

Italy have an early advantage in that their 2-0 semi-final win over Germany came on Tuesday, one day before France defeated Portugal 1-0 to join them in the title match.

But Domenech said he had no worries that his ageing team would be fit and raring to go for Sunday’s match which, given the stinginess of both defences, could well stretch into strength-sapping extra-time.

"It’s true that we were exhausted, but being tired after a semi-final is normal and we will recover in time," he said at the French training camp near Hanover.

"As far as I am concerned my guys are not old. At 30 or 35 you still follow a preparation and then it’s faith that makes the difference.

"Over six months you can expect players of that age to have problems, but not over a period of a month and seven matches."

Lippi, in tune with his players, has saluted the magnificent form shown at the World Cup by 34-year-old French skipper Zinedine Zidane saying that the midfielder was "probably the best player there has been in the past 20 years."

"France are back with a top-form Zidane and they have improved as the tournament has gone on. Beating Portugal confirmed that they are back to their best," he said.

But Alessandro Del Piero, a former team-mate of Zidane at Juventus said it would be a mistake for Italy to concentrate solely on nullifying Zidane’s threat in Sunday’s final.

"He has performed magnificently so far and I hope that ends on Sunday," Del Piero said of the Real Madrid midfield maestro who will retire from football after the Berlin showpiece.

"But France have other dangerous players who can hurt you in an instant. We have to make sure we keep an eye on everybody."

The Italians have confirmed that experienced defender Alessandro Nesta would definitely miss the the game due a groin injury but that had been expected as he has been out of action since picking up the injury in the group stages.

Elsewhere Marcello Lippi’s men had a clean bill of health and they have back in their available ranks gritty midfielder Daniele di Rossi who has seen out a four-match suspension incurred earlier against the United States.

But it was thought unlikely that Lippi would tamper with the line-up that defeated Germany to put Italy in a World Cup final for the first time since 1994.

Domenech seems certain to stick by his approach of playing Thierry Henry as a lone striker in front of a four-man midfield marshalled by Zidane, who is one of six French players who would collect their second World Cup winners medals should they win on Sunday.

Zinedine Zidane, Fabien Barthez, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Thierry Henry and David Trezeguet were all in the squad that played in the 1998 competition.

Zidane, who scored two goals in the 3-0 win over Brazil, Barthez and Thuram were all starters at the Stade de France that day while Vieira came on as a substitute.

FIFA meanwhile have announced that the referee for the match will be 42-year-old Argentinian Horacio Elizondo.

Elizondo was also in charge of the tournament opener between Germany and Costa Rica in Munich on June 9.

In the quarter-finals he was the referee for the England v Portugal game and sent off England striker Wayne Rooney in a controversial decision for stamping on an opponent.