Franck Ribery came out of nowhere to be one of the stars of the World Cup.
He's only played two seasons of top level soccer and never played for France before being called up for the World Cup, but he's emerged as one of the key players in France's surprise run to the semifinals, where the Bleus face Portugal on Wednesday. Ribery's pace and dribbling ability have caused havoc for opposing defenders, and he can attack down either wing.
Ribery, the darling of French fans, says the secret to his success is to have lots of fun.
"I'm young, I've got a great job and I'm enjoying myself," he said. "I don't see what I could complain about or why I should put myself under any kind of pressure."
Ribery's career has not always been happy. He spent the first three years at clubs in France's National League (third level): Boulogne-sur-Mer, Ales and Brest. After six months at First Division Metz in 2004, he moved to Turkish club Galatasaray but left Istanbul after playing only 14 games.
Many a player has failed at chaotic Marseille, but Ribery played so well after returning home last season that the French press soon began clamoring for Ribery's callup. Coach Raymond Domenech didn't select Ribery for France's only friendly game in 2006 before the end of the French league season but picked him over veteran Robert Pires for the World Cup.
The 23-year-old Ribery, who is involved in a tasty transfer dispute betweeen Marseille and Lyon, set up Patrick Vieira for the first goal in France's 2-0 win over Togo that qualified the Bleus for the knockout phase, and he scored the tying goal against Spain.
"I'm feeling very comfortable in that team," said Ribery. "Playing with great players around you is very easy. I don't ask myself any questions. I just race the ball forward."
Ribery, whose long scar running across his forehead and down his right cheek stems from a car accident when he was 2, has been hailed as the heir to French great Zinedine Zidane, who says his young teammate must learn to pace himself.
"He must be right," said Ribery, "but it's hard for me to do that because that's just the way I am."
IN AND OUT.
Portugal coach Luiz Felipe Scolari should bring back playmaker Deco and defensive midfielder Costinha. Both were red carded against the Netherlands and mised the England game. Luis Figo might not be fit for the France game. If he is unavailable, Tiago would probably take his place.
Portugal (4-5-1): 1-Ricardo (54-0); 13-Miguel (33-1), 16-Ricardo Carvalho (29-1), 5-Fernando Meira (35-2), 14-Nuno Valente (27-1); 6-Costinha (47-2), 18-Maniche (36-6), 20-Deco (37-3), 7-Luis Figo (124-32), 17-Cristiano Ronaldo (36-12); 9-Pauleta (86-47).
France (4-2-3-1): 16-Fabien Barthez (85-0); 19-Willy Sagnol (43-0), 15-Lilian Thuram (119-2), 5-William Gallas (45-1), 3-Eric Abidal (12-0); 4-Patrick Vieira (92-6), 6-Claude Makelele (48-0); 22-Franck Ribery (8-1), 10-Zinedine Zidane (106-29), 7-Florent Malouda (17-2); 12-Thierry Henry (83-36).
Zidane already sat out one France game -- the final group game against Togo -- because he picked up two yellow cards. He carries one yellow card into the Portugal. Other players carrying one yellow card into the Portugal-France game are Vieira and Ribery for France; Maniche, Petit, Nuno Valente, Ricardo Carvalho and Luis Figo for Portugal.
Uruguayan referee Jorge Larrionda, who sent off three players in the USA-Italy game, will take charge of Wednesday's World Cup semifinal. The linesmen are Larionda's countrymen Walter Rial and Pablo Fandino.
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Blatter: FIFA to consider ban for yellow cards in three games
Players will likely need to receive yellow cards in three games before being suspended from the next game.
FIFA president Sepp Blatter made the suggestion today that three yellow cards, not two, might warrant a suspension at future World Cups.
"In a competition like the World Cup," Blatter said, "it should perhaps be three yellow cards in the first round and three in the second. This is a wise suggestion and we will take it up."
Blatter added: "In some national leagues, players are suspended after three, four or five matches, and three yellow cards in the World Cup makes sense.A player can go into the semifinals now with one yellow card, sometimes for bad luck, and get a second one then miss the World Cup final. On a larger scale, the referees should also be more consistent with yellow cards. It is something we must look at."
In 60 games, a record 304 yellow cards and 28 red cards have been handed out. The previous World Cup record for yellow cards was 272 in 2002.