Created on 16-06-2008 at 00:00 AM
Franck Ribéry and Luca Toni contributed decisive goals and scintillating performances to Bayern’s trophy-laden 2007-8 campaign, but Munich’s superstar duo, who became firm buddies a long time ago, will set aside their friendship for 90 or so minutes on Tuesday evening when they go head-to-head for their countries at the European championships.
The final round of fixtures in Group C pits Ribéry’s France against Toni’s Italians in a showdown for a place in the quarter-finals. Only the winner in the re-run of the 2006 World Cup final has any hope of making the last eight, and must even then hope the all-conquering Dutch do not lose to Romania. Victory for the East Europeans would condemn Italy and France to ignominious early exits from the tournament.
Bayern men out of luck
“It’ll be a heated and hard battle,” Ribéry predicted, “if we can stop Toni, we’ll have a good chance.“ For his part, the all-or-nothing showdown in the Group of Death represents Luca’s nightmare come true: “Anything, but not that,” the Bundesliga’s leading scorer declared before the event: “I don’t want to be needing points against France."
“But I totally believe we’ll make it to the quarter-finals,” the 31-year-old insisted this week, although he has yet to score in Austria and Switzerland despite netting 39 goals in 46 matches for Bayern last term. Ribéry has hardly enjoyed greater success this summer, after under-fire coach Raymond Domenech played him out of position in the goalless draw with Romania. Franck was then his side’s best player in the sobering 4-1 defeat to the Dutch, but he could do nothing to hinder the imperious progress of the men in orange.
In touch by text
“We’ve recovered from the shock,” insisted Ribéry, voicing hopes that Toni “doesn’t suddenly rediscover his scoring touch when we’re the opponents." However, the showdown at the Letzigrundstadion in Zurich has not affected the Munich duo’s friendship. “We’ve been sending each other regular text messages in recent days," the France star revealed.