Don’t get suffocated: Zidane

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French talisman Zinedine Zidane says it’s vital France is not stifled by Ireland in their crucial 2006 World Cup qualifier on Wednesday…

 The 33-year-old Real Madrid star admitted that the smaller confines of Lansdowne Road compared to the Stade France could restrict the French, who presently lie third in Group Four behind Switzerland and Ireland on goal difference.

"We must not let ourselves get driven off course, no matter what happens we must stick to our natural game," said Zidane, who came out of international retirement along with Claude Makelele and Lilian Thuram in August after France made a disappointing start to their qualifying campaign.

"We may not have the freedom to play as we like because it is not a very big stadium.

"But we must not allow ourselves to feel like we are being suffocated.

"We have watched some matches which the Irish have won and some that they have found difficult.

"We know a little of what we should do and some things we should not do.

 "It is now for us to put that into practice," added Zidane, who will be making his first appearance at Lansdowne Road.

Zidane, a two-goal hero for France in their 1998 World Cup final victory over Brazil, said that the French had come here to win and that defeat for either side would almost certainly cost them a place in Germany next year.

"We are well-aware of the task ahead of us in what will be a very difficult match but which we all dream of playing," said Zidane.

"This match is as important for us, as it is for the Irish, because they must win if they are to stay on course for the finals as indeed we must as well.

"Above all neither side can afford to lose. For us this could be the boost we need."

Zidane, who said it would be one of the more important matches of his career because his international career was definitely drawing to a permanent close, said he did not expect Ireland’s fiery midfielder Roy Keane to go over the top even if he was set to face his former bitter rival from Arsenal Patrick Vieira.

"I don’t think that Keane will display his nastier side," said Zidane.

"It will be a physical encounter but we must not respond in kind."

France coach Raymond Domenech, who has failed to fire the fans since taking over from the equally innocuous Jacques Santini after France’s disappointing Euro 2004 finals campaign, did not want to focus on the Keane/Vieira duel preferring bizarrely to focus on the weather.

"I want real Irish weather as in the rain and the wind so the players experience the real thing."