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Zidane quits French national team

Zinedine Zidane
Zidane: "You have to stop one day."
-- Born June 23, 1972, Marseille, France.
-- Named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1998, 2000 and 2003
1988 -- Joins Cannes, scoring six goals in 61 league appearances.
1994 -- Makes France debut against Czech Republic, scoring two goals in 17 minutes as a second-half substitute.
1996 -- Moves to Juventus, helping the club win two Serie A titles in his first two full seasons. Wins the European Super Cup and the World Club Cup. Scores 28 goals in 191 matches in five seasons at Juventus.
1998 -- Heads two first-half goals to help France win their first World Cup with a 3-0 victory over Brazil.
2000 -- Named player of the tournament as he helps
France to victory in Euro 2000. Becomes the world's most expensive player, moving from Juventus to Real Madrid for $66 million. Wins the Champions League with Real.
2002 -- Misses France's opening two games at the World Cup finals in Japan and Korea as the defending champions head out of the tournament in the first round.
2004 -- Captains France in place of injured Marcel Desailly as France are beaten 1-0 by Greece in the quarterfinals, Zidane's final international match as he announces in international retirement on August 12.

PARIS, France -- France playmaker Zinedine Zidane announced on Thursday that he was ending his international career after a 10-year spell with Les Bleus.

"My international career is over now," said the 32-year-old on his website. "I called the coach yesterday to let him know I had made up my mind. I think it was the right time to say 'stop'. At least, it was the time for me to do so," he said.

Zidane has had a successful career, winning the 1998 World Cup and the 2000 European championship.

His retirement closes a glorious chapter in French soccer history with only goalkeeper Fabien Barthez remaining from the team that beat Brazil to become world champions in 1998.

Zidane's announcement came after defenders Lilian Thuram, Bixente Lizarazu and captain Marcel Desailly all called time on their international careers since the end of Euro 2004.

"This is the end of a story," Zidane said. "It's important to know when your time to go has come. Some players had done it in 2000 and in 2002. Others like me are doing it now."

Zidane made his international debut in 1994 and his superstar status was confirmed when he scored two goals in France's 3-0 World Cup final win over Brazil in Paris in 1998. Two years later he also played a crucial role in France's European championship success.

But France's quarterfinal defeat by Greece at Euro 2004, following their first round exit from the 2002 World Cup, spelled the end for a generation of players who have dominated their side for the past decade.

Zidane, the reigning FIFA world footballer of the year, is expected to continue playing for Real Madrid until the end of his contract in 2007.

"My decision is going to give me more time to focus on my job with Madrid," he said. "I will also have more time to rest throughout the season."

The Frenchman said his best memory with France was the 1998 World Cup final when he headed two goals in the first half of the 3-0 victory over Brazil.

"I will always remember all these people celebrating and chanting in the streets. The color of the skin didn't matter anymore. There was only the joy. It will remain like one of the greatest moments in my life."

New French coach Raymond Domenech said he was sorry that Zidane had decided to quit.

"Zidane will not play for France anymore. I would have liked him to carry on. He thought he had to leave the place to young players," said Domenech, who took over from Jacques Santini after Euro 2004.

The French coach said the number 10 shirt, normally worn by Zidane, would be temporarily retired as "it would be too heavy to carry."

Domenech included seven uncapped players in his first squad, while defenders Anthony Reveillere of Lyon and Paris St Germain's Bernard Mendy have just one cap each.

French squad:

Goalkeepers: Fabien Barthez (Marseille), Gregory Coupet (Lyon)
Defenders: Eric Abidal (Lyon), Jean-Alain Boumsong (Rangers), Patrice Evra (Monaco), William Gallas (Chelsea), Gael Givet (Monaco), Bernard Mendy (Paris St Germain), Anthony Reveillere (Lyon), Sebastien Squillaci (Monaco)
Midfielders: Alou Diarra (Lens), Rio-Antonio Mavuba (Bordeaux), Benoit Pedretti (Marseille), Robert Pires (Arsenal), Jerome Rothen (Paris St Germain), Patrick Vieira (Arsenal)
Forwards: Djibril Cisse (Liverpool), Pierre-Alain Frau (Lyon), Sydney Govou (Lyon), Thierry Henry (Arsenal), Peguy Luyindula (Marseille)

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