Luis Figo, Deco, Zinedine Zidane, Thierry Henry are all players with the genius to turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye. But in Munich on Wednesday, it could well be French youngster Franck Ribéry who eclipses the more established stars by stepping up when it counts.

FOOTBALL 2006 World Cup France-Switzerland (Ribery)

Image credit: Imago

Ribéry - the youngest player in the French squad by a mile - represents the future of French football.
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As the class of '98 finally come to the end of their long and illustrious careers, the baton will have to be passed on, and much will be expected of the Marseille midfielder.
At 23 years old, Ribery has already proved in this tournament that he is more than capable of taking la nouvelle France into the future with his distinctive blend of pace, skill and aggressive determination.


Image credit: Imago

And it is like he has been an international all his young life. Having only made his full international debut in the run-up to this year's tournament, Ribery has taken to football at the highest level like a duck to water.
And in the midst of players such as Zidane, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira and Fabien Barthez - who Ribery watched win the World Cup in 1998 at home on television - he does not look an inch out of place.
"I'm feeling very comfortable in that team," Ribery said. "Playing with great players around you is very easy. I don't ask myself any questions. I just race the ball forward."
As is normal for someone of Ribéry's generation, Zidane in particular was a major hero as he grew up Boulogne-sur-Mer in northern France, and the Marseille man is just happy to have been given the opportunity to play with the great man before he ends his career.

FOOTBALL 2006 World Cup Spain-France Zidane Ribery

Image credit: dpa

"Playing with him is a dream and a privilege," Ribery said.
"His career is nearly over and mine is just starting. We won't be playing together for long so I have to make the most of it."
If he can, and should France beat Portugal before going on to repeat the feat of six years ago, it will be Ribéry who assumes the role of his old heroes to become an inspiration to a whole new generation of youngsters across the country.
The future is bright, the future is Ribéry.
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