Eriksson seeks clues as France tackle Brazil

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The Independent Football

Friendly matches do not come much more prestigious than this. Six years after their ultimately one-sided encounter in the World Cup final, France and Brazil meet again tonight at the same Stade de France arena, with Sven Goran Eriksson very much among the interested parties.

With England's own showdown against the European champions less than a month away, Eriksson is using the highlight of Fifa's 100th anniversary celebrations to try and pick up fresh hints about what to expect at Euro 2004 from the side widely regarded as favourites to retain their crown in Portugal.

Although tonight's teams last met three years ago in the Confederations Cup in South Korea, it is their high-profile confrontation at the 1998 World Cup final that still sticks so vividly in the mind. Two goals from Zinedine Zidane and one from Emmanuel Petit earned France a 3-0 victory on a night when Ronaldo ignored medical advice and declared himself fit to play despite being left off the team sheet until the final seconds.

This time, the Real Madrid striker, despite having arrived late, appears in good health and is expected to take his place in a strong Brazilian line-up for the sell-out fixture. It is France, however, on whom Eriksson's eyes and mind will be firmly fixed. The 23-strong French squad for Euro 2004 was named on Monday and most of them will be on show apart, that is, from the Marseille and Monaco contingent taking part either in last night's Uefa Cup final or next week's Champions' League final.

That, unfortunately for the England coach, rules out the likes of Steve Marlet and, in particular, the dangerous duo of Ludovic Giuly and Jérome Rothen, both of whom caused Chelsea so many problems in the Champions' League semi-final and could do the same to England.

Nevertheless, there remains plenty of talent for the England coach to analyse, though quite what he can learn is open to question since half the starting line-up will probably comprise players from Arsenal and Chelsea. All of them are here, with Thierry Henry likely to start up front alongside Zidane and David Trezeguet, with Manchester United's Louis Saha on the bench. If that is a sign of Jacques Santini's thinking for when it really matters, it represents a nice easy start for Sol Campbell and John Terry against one of the deadliest strike forces in world football.

So far, the French coach has done little talking about those selected for Portugal. He is due to explain his thinking in more depth 24 hours after tonight's game. But one player who will be out to impress his national coach is Sylvain Wiltord, somewhat of a peripheral figure at Highbury this season but preferred, along with the former Leeds and Everton midfielder Olivier Dacourt, to Sidney Govou, of Lyon, and, surprisingly, Johan Micoud, one of Europe's outstanding midfield players, who has done so much to help Werder Bremen win the Bundesliga title.

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