Zidane would be 'perfect' for Brazil as France keep him waiting

By Sports Desk January 07, 2023

Zinedine Zidane saw an obvious route back into coaching blocked off when France elected to stick with Didier Deschamps, raising the question of where the former Real Madrid boss could end up.

News came through on Saturday of a new deal for Deschamps that keeps him with France through to the 2026 World Cup.

Had Deschamps been unable to agree terms with the French Football Federation, or elected to walk away after his team's World Cup final penalty shoot-out defeat to Argentina, it seemed Zidane would have been the obvious choice as his successor.

Now, however, he must wait for the chance to coach his country, if it ever arrives, but Zidane should not give up hope of working at the top level in international football.

According to former Brazil playmaker Juninho Pernambucano, coaching the Selecao would be a "perfect" role for the 50-year-old former Ballon d'Or winner.

It has been a long-standing tradition for only Brazilians to be head coach of their national team, but ex-Lyon star Juninho thinks an exception should be made for Zidane.

Tite stepped down after Brazil's World Cup quarter-final exit, creating the current vacancy.

"Football is a democratic sport. Everyone can participate, although the priority will always be a coach from your country, who knows the local football," Juninho told French broadcaster RMC.

"But if today you don't have a name that is unanimous in Brazil, why not look outside? But you can't take someone outside because you're going to propose a huge contract."

Juninho floated the name of Fernando Diniz, who is head coach of Fluminense and "makes his team play in an incredible way".

Unlike Zidane, however, Diniz has yet to win major silverware as a coach.

"I see Zidane as the perfect coach for Brazil," Juninho added.

Speaking in October, Zidane, who has won three Champions League titles as a coach, said he was looking to get back into work.

He had been linked with Juventus and Paris Saint-Germain, and club opportunities may be presented now it is clear he will not be stepping into the France job.

"Do I miss the coaching suit? No, I'm not far away," Zidane said. "We're waiting, we're waiting a little bit. Soon, soon."

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    The Bayer Leverkusen striker hobbled off through injury soon after, and Czechia looked all set to slip to a second defeat right at the end when Georgia broke, only for Lobjanidze to fire over in a one-v-one with the final kick of the game.

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    Croatia - Luka Modric

    In what could be his final appearance for his nation at a major tournament, Modric continues to prove that age is just a number. The Real Madrid midfielder started his 15th game in the European Championships, with only Andres Iniesta (16) starting more often among midfielders in the history of the competition.

    His 20 line-breaking passes were the most of any player against Albania, and he became the oldest player on record (since 1980) to complete 100+ passes in a match at the European Championships (108 v Albania today, 38y 284d). 

     

    Italy - Gianluigi Donnarumma

    With the Italians' forward line restricted to just four shots against Spain in their last encounter, Donnarumma will be key to ensure they prevent conceding against Croatia. 

    The Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper is set to make his 10th Euros appearance aged 25 years and 120 days on the day of the game, becoming the youngest goalkeeper to hit this milestone in European Championship history.

    MATCH PREDICTION: DRAW

    Even though Opta's model makes Italy marginal favourties, Croatia boast an impressive record against the Azzurri and will be looking to continue that record as they look to confirm their progression to the knockout stages. 

    Since gaining independence in the early 1990s, Croatia are unbeaten in their eight meetings against Italy (W3 D5). However, their last three games have all ended 1-1. 

    Dalic's side have not gone through a group stage without winning at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup (D2 L1). They have won their final group game at three of their last four major tournaments (D1) since losing 3-1 to Mexico at the 2014 World Cup.

    Croatia also boast an excellent record against the current reigning champions of the tournament. This will be their fifth against the current holders of the trophy, each coming in the group stages. 

    Since the group phase was introduced in 1980, Italy have lost their final group game in only one of their nine appearances at the UEFA European Championship (W6 D2), going down 1-0 against the Republic of Ireland in 2016.

    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

    Croatia - 32.6%

    Draw - 27.7%

    Italy - 39.7%

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    MATCH PREDICTION: SPAIN WIN

    La Roja boast an impressive record over their opponents coming into the encounter in Dusseldorf, having won all eight of their previous meetings (31 goals for, three against).

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    OPTA WIN PROBABILITY

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    Draw – 21.6%

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