As the final approaches, there's already a winner

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After more than two years of competition featuring 194 teams, 910 games and more than 2,600 goals, the World Cup will be decided today with either Italy crowned champions for the fourth time or France for the second.

One winner has already been decided: the German economy. As thousands of French and Italian fans swarmed into Berlin for the final and the few remaining tickets were selling on eBay for around £3,000, corporate sponsors and tourism chiefs were licking their lips and the organisers were smiling like Cheshire cats.

With two million foreign visitors - twice as many as expected - the World Cup has been a boon for all involved, bringing in millions of extra euros, creating thousands of new jobs and successfully showcasing Germany as a friendly, self-confident nation.

More than half of the 50,000 jobs created by the tournament will remain after it ends, according to Germany's Federal Agency for Employment, and the tournament is expected to add 0.3 per cent growth to the German economy.

And, this afternoon, a worldwide audience of a billion people are expected to turn their attention to Berlin's Olympiastadion where the two teams drenched in World Cup history will do battle. For France it is the opportunity to complete the recovery after they were knocked out after the first round without scoring a goal four years ago. For Italy it is a chance to redeem the reputation of the national game as it suffers the consequences of the ongoing domestic match-fixing scandal which might yet see half the squad playing second division football next month.

Across Britain, parties are being planned - in particular by expatriate French and Italians. Below, rival fans planning to watch the match in London explain why neutrals should support their boys. Had last Saturday turned out differently, it could have been Wayne Rooney bringing his own brand of grace to today's final. But he is not, and yesterday he was handed a two-match ban by Fifa and a £2,400 fine for the stamping that got him sent off in what turned out to be England's last match.


1 Luis Cavalcante, 33, from West Hampstead.

"It will make up for recent bad headlines about Italian football."

2 Manuela Manigas, 35, from Stratford.

"Italy should win because they played so well against Germany."

3 Giancarlo Miggiano, 26, from Merton.

"We have scoring options from the whole team - even the defence can score."

4 Giusy Girgenti, 35, from Stratford.

"I really hope Italy win - we deserve to, I think. Buffon will be our hero."

5 Bruno Colombo, 20, from Finsbury Park.

"The Italians played the most beautiful football at this tournament."

6 Christian Galli, 31, from a small village near Milan.

"The Italian team is much stronger than the French."


1 Christelle Jaouen, 24, from Paris.

"The team is multicultural, which sets a great example to young children."

2 Nicolas Neu, 18, from Sarreguemines.

"When Zidane has a good day every Italian looks small next to him."

3 Eberst Guillaume, 17, from Sarreguemines.

"We are a completely different team after the Togo match."

4 Claire Ciosi, 21, from Marseille.

"We have great players in defence - they will make it difficult for the Italians."

5 Adrien Malbrancq, 22, from Paris.

"We managed to scare Brazil so we might be able to do the same with Italy."

6 Hélène Bostyn, 22, from Paris.

"I live in the suburbs and a lot of people believe football is the only way out."