Zidane set for 100th appearance

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/images/thumbnail/ver1/A/Apzinedinezidane.jpg' class='caption'> Zinedine Zidane will captain France against Mexico in his 100 international appearance and his last at the Stade de France.

Updated: February 25, 2007 11:34 IST
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Zinedine Zidane has come a long way since he was scolded by Eric Cantona for missing a team meeting on his first call up to the France squad. Twelve years later, Zidane is preparing to captain France against Mexico today. He will make his 100th international appearance and last at the Stade de France. "If I do get swamped by emotion then so be it," Zidane said. "I will try not to put pressure on myself. But if I do get emotional, then it is no drama. I have always had a good relationship with the fans at Stade de France," he added. Midfielder Zidane will become the fourth player to play 100 times for Les Bleus, following fellow World Cup winners Didier Deschamps, Lilian Thuram and record 116-game Marcel Desailly. It is a far cry from his first tentative steps in the French camp. Called up as a late replacement for the injured Youri Djorkaeff, the shy Zidane kept his distance from the likes of the imposing Cantona -- who was well on the way to becoming a Manchester United legend. "We had a team meeting," Zidane said. "I stayed in my room as I thought I had no business to be there. Then I got a phone call and it was Cantona. He shouted down the phone-- 'Hey, kid, where are you?' I literally ran down the stairs." Cantona's blast seemed to work. Zidane came off the bench to score two goals and earn a 2-2 home draw against the Czech Republic. Cherished memories The Stade de France has held cherished memories for Zidane over the last eight years. Zidane scored in the opening game at the national stadium - a 1-0 win over Spain in January 1998 - and six months later, he headed two goals in France's 3-0 victory over Brazil in the World Cup final. Today will mark Zidane's fourth appearance at Stade de France in the past two years. He scored in a 1-0 win friendly win against Ukraine in June 2004, before France headed to the European Championship in Portugal. France was eliminated by Greece in the quarterfinals, and Zidane retired from international soccer. "I look back at video tapes of Euro 2004 and I looked out of position," Zidane said. He came back for the teams final four World Cup qualifiers and scored and assisted in a 4-0 qualifying win over Cyprus in October. He took the field in a 2-1 friendly loss to Slovakia in March - France's only defeat in 18 matches under coach Raymond Domenech. Zidane has played 6 matches at Stade de France, scoring 11 of his 8 international goals in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis and losing only twice. Zidane, 33, is unlikely to play more than a half game today, with Domenech eager not to overplay him prior to France's opening World up match against Switzerland on June 13. (AP)

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