The two Spartan coaches, who up until this point picked each of four quarterfinal games and two semifinals differently, are in agreement that Italy should come away with its fourth World Cup trophy on Sunday, both citing goalkeeping as one main reason for their predictions. The game is a rematch of the 2000 European Championship final, a 2-1 overtime victory for France.
St. Clair and Siracusa split the semifinal contests earlier in the week. St. Clair was right in picking Italy to oust fellow three-time champion and tournament host Germany on Tuesday, while Siracusa had 1998 champion France over Portugal on Wednesday. Siracusa had gotten three of the four quarterfinals correct, with St. Clair right on the remaining match-up last weekend.
Gary St. Clair: 2 out of 6 correct
Dave Siracusa: 4 out of 6 correct
Italy vs. France, Sunday, July 9, 11:00 a.m. PDT
Gary St. Clair’s Pick: Italy
“It should be a very, very competitive final. I am pleased to see that these two teams have made it into the final. They are both hungry teams. France has shown a real desire to be successful since the start of the second round, after a lackluster performance throughout the first round. Clearly, Italy has had a lot on their minds, with everything going on with the match-fixing scandal in that country. Both teams have top players that are nearing the end of their careers, namely Zinedine Zidane of course for France, all of whom will no doubt show a lot of hunger.
“I pick Italy for one simple reason, and that is goalkeeping. Italy has one of the best goalkeepers in Gianluigi Buffon, and France has one of the worst in Fabien Barthez.”
Dave Siracusa’s Pick: Italy
“Italy has only let in one goal this entire tournament, and that was on themselves (an own goal). Now they are scoring a lot of goals, with five over the last two games. They have had 10 different goalscorers in the tournament, which is a World Cup record. Any time an Italian team is a threat to score, they are a threat to win trophies, because their defense is already so strong. It’s being said that this might be the best defensive performance ever in a World Cup.
“This game is a very even game. The Zinedine Zidane story is great. (France’s three-time FIFA ‘World Player of the Year’ has announced he is retiring at the conclusion of the tournament). The French are a great team. Zidane, Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira are part of the best midfield in the world, or one of them anyway. But I think the Italian goalkeeper in particular, Gianluigi Buffon, is playing exceptionally well. If the x-factor is goalkeeping, you have to go with Italy. (France goalkeeper) Fabien Barthez has the experience, and has 10 shutouts to tie England’s Peter Shilton for the most all-time in World Cup tournaments, but Buffon is the better goalkeeper.”