English Dithyrambs for Zidane
Now, how often do English newspapers drool, tongues hanging out, in awed reverence at a Frenchman's performance? Not often, but this time they're not sparing the adjectives:
He walked off the pitch with a wink. While the younger ones cavorted in front of the blue corner, Zinedine Zidane took himself away from the limelight. He embraced a few desolate Brazilians, saluted some unused substitutes, stood back from the party and took his leave. It is always best to watch the quiet ones.
France began this tournament saddled with worries about the ageing legs at the heart of their team, but they have changed their tune. Allez les vieux. The capacity to inspire beats on inside Zidane.
One of the enduring curiosities of the France team - the sheer oddness of a statistic that told of 54 games when Zidane and Thierry Henry played together for France without the master creator setting up the master marksman a single time - was obliterated.
Zidane, just as he did in his finest hour, welcomed the opportunity to shatter Brazil. He stood over a set piece on the flank, measuring the moment. He stroked over a free-kick, the ball dipped perfectly to bypass the bewildered Brazil defence and land in front of Henry's right boot. Merci, mon ami. About time too.
While Henry ran off into goalscoring glory, followed by the majority of his team-mates, the old maestro smiled to himself. Patrick Vieira, his vice captain, ran over to engulf him. The legend lives on and on.
How could he have had an ordinary game here? How could he bow out just after reminding us of his wonders with that vintage goal against Spain? How could he not have illuminated this occasion with flashes of the sumptuous talent that has made him probably the greatest player of his generation. A genuine maestro.
'Zizou president' - on the night of 12 July 1998, those two words filled the night air like fireworks. And in a funny way, Zizou's disciples really believed what they were singing. Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, the child of the Marseille banlieue come good, the man whose humility made him the most introverted kind of hero imaginable, he didn't just unite football fans. He united France.