Infamous encounter?

MORRIS DALLA COSTA -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:24 AM ET

ZURICH -- Italian coach Roberto Donadoni has those matinee-idol looks, a well-trimmed goatee and salt-and-pepper hair that's stylishly unkempt.

Raymond Domenech, the French coach on the hot seat, often looks an absent-minded professor.

They have different styles and deliveries.

They don't share much except likely the same fate.

France and Italy today will write the latest chapter in what's become a long-running series of infamous encounters.

France and Italy were in the same qualifying group for Euro 2008. They played the 2006 World Cup final, won by the Italians. France beat Italy in the Euro 2000 final on a golden goal by David Trezeguet.

In order to assure themselves of a chance at advancing to the knockout rounds of Euro 2008, both teams need to win. Italy has a chance of advancing with a 0-0 tie, but they would need many other things to happen.

The Italy-France game becomes insignificant if Romania beats the Netherlands, the Group C winner. Then Romania advances with the Dutch.

Elimination would spell the end for Donadoni. His contract is geared to a long run at Euro. Reports from Italy say Marcello Lippi, the coach of the 2006 world champions, is waiting to sign a contract.

"We know what's at stake," Donadoni said. "We will play with our body and soul."

Domenech might also be guillotined. As the French media are so fond of reminding him, he's never won anything. It also doesn't help Domenech isn't liked by his veteran players.

At a press conference, Domenech talked about the game and tactics. Near the end, he was asked if he believed this could be his last game as coach of Les Bleus.

"I'm not asking you if this is your last press conference," he said loudly. "But I can tell you, that is your last question."

He got up and left.

A combination of bad luck and bad play has placed the Italians under tremendous pressure and criticism.

Donadoni will likely start Antonio Cassano at forward, although he wouldn't give anything away.

Before the tournament began, this was considered a marquee match. Few people expected both teams would be on the verge of elimination.

"It is another final," Donadoni said. "It has been said that Italy has not been able to win against France in open games. I don't care about statistics. I am interested in the game. Holland had not beaten us in 30 years and they beat us in the first game."

The Italians and French have to win, but their fate belongs to Romania and Holland. Donadoni doesn't want his team to think about the other match.

"We aren't masters of our own destiny. Why focus on that?" he said.

There has been much speculation about the Dutch intentions. Some have suggested the Dutch may not play as hard in an effort to eliminate both France and Italy. The Netherlands will be fielding a team composed mostly of players from the bench.

But Donadoni was adamant when asked if he'd called his friend Marco Van Basten, coach of the Netherlands.

"Absolutely not. It's a form of respect," Donadoni said. "I know that speaking to Marco . . . would be really bad of me.

"If I was in his shoes, I would be offended. If I was sitting on the bench and got a chance to play and was asked not to play very well in the game against Romania, I would feel humiliated. Why would I not want to play well?"

If his team could be as unflappable as Donadoni, they'd never panic. Nothing seems to unsettle him.

He was asked if the team had packed their suitcases. "The suitcases are still open. Not just mine but everyone's," he said. "We are not focusing on going home. Besides, it doesn't take that long to pack."


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