Berlin, July 9: Admitting that he enjoyed beating Italy ''more than any other'' team during his playing days, French great Michel Platini said the key to France's chances in the World Cup finals against Italy today would be the level of coordination between striker Thierry Henry and talismanic playmaker Zinedine Zidane.
''In the French camp, it will be the interaction between Zidane and Henry. Whatever anyone says, that link-up is fundamental to the team,'' Platini told the official FIFA World Cup website.
For the Italians, Platini said the Azzurris' prospects in the title match depended on the form of mid-fielder Andrea Pirlo as he held the team together with his self-less play. He alse said Frnk Ribery could prove to be the difference between the two sides with his pace and dribbling skills.
''For the Italians, it's Andrea Pirlo and how well he can bring his team-mates into the game. Frank Ribery brings the same qualities Robert Pires provided in the past: the ability to destabilise defences with his short dribbles and runs,'' he said.
The former great, who was in the French team which finished third in Mexico 1986, said Zidane is without doubt the most important difference between the two sides and has the ability to lift the Les Blues even without being at his best.
''Zidane has been crucial in this World Cup. Not only because he's played very well, but above all because he raises the level of the rest of the side. He is without doubt the only player in the world who can make a difference without necessarily putting in a great performance,'' Platini pointed out.
The vice-president of the French Football Federation and chairman of FIFA's Technical and Development Committee said Italians were a joy to play against but conceded that the stakes have never been as high as they would be for Zidane and co.
The part-Italian player, who was part of France's 1984 European Championship winning team, said he had been disappointed with the tournament so far as players' skills have been overshadowed by the tactics of coaches.
''It's the coaches' World Cup, and I could also have called it the World Cup of tactics. To some extent, that's a trend that has carried over from other competitions. There was more freedom 20 years ago whereas now everything is dominated by tactics,'' Platini said.
He, however, clarified that the football has not been bad but defensive nonetheless and has become more about the planning outside the field.
''I'm not saying the football is poor, it just depends more than ever on what the coaches come up with. You have to admit the formations have been rather defensive. In terms of the football on offer, I don't think Germany 2006 will go down in the annals,'' he observed.
Paltini said even the finalists have not been the best of the sides either in the tournament but have proven difficult to beat for others.
''I don't think France are the best team in the world, but they are very difficult to beat, and the same goes for Italy, and it's no coincidence that these two sides are in the final,'' he explained.
Unimpressed with any of the teams participating in the tournament, Platini disagreed with the general view that the South American teams fell short of the expectations and said Brazil and Argentina did not perform badly but were only hard done by bad luck.
''I don't think you can say the South American sides performed poorly. Brazil lost 1-0 to France and to be eliminated by one of the finalists is not what I'd call a failure. The same goes for Argentina. They were knocked out by the hosts on penalties, so it's tough to draw any conclusions from these so-called 'early' exits,'' he added.