Today's final

July 12, 1998

Teams: Brazil vs. France

Site: Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France

Time: 3 p.m.

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Goalkeepers: Brazil's Taffarel and France's Fabien Barthez entered this tournament as resounding question marks but both have risen to the moment. Advantage: Even.

Defense: France had the best back line in the tournament, but that was before sweeper and stabilizer Laurent Blanc was red-carded in the semifinal against Croatia, rendering him ineligible today. Defense is Brazil's weakness -- not so much for inability as impatience. Advantage: France.

Midfield: Zinedine Zidane on this French team is like Michael Jordan on the 1980s pre-Pippen Bulls: So much talent wasted on a nondescript supporting cast. Rivaldo and Cesar Sampaio have combined for a half a dozen goals in six games for Brazil. Advantage: Brazil.

Forwards: Brazil has Ronaldo, France has a bunch of guys named Youri and Thierry and Stephane. That's all that needs to be said. Advantage: Brazil.

Outlook: Brazil is here, as expected, and has yet to play a full 90 minutes up to its untouchable reputation. France has had a charmed path in this World Cup. Beside the home-field advantage and weak competition in Group C, France lucked into a second-round matchup against Paraguay and a semifinal draw against Croatia. The luck runs out here. Pick: Brazil, 2-0

Pub Date: 7/12/98

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