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FOOTBALL

Zidane goal marks French comeback

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Zidane's goal scoring return bodes well for France's World Cup hopes

PARIS, France -- Zinedine Zidane made a dream return to the French international line up as he scored their second goal in a 3-0 victory over the Ivory Coast in Montpellier.

Zidane popped up at the far post to score with a crisp volley from a Sylvain Wiltord corner just after the hour mark.

His goal made the game safe for a revitalized France who had gone ahead through William Gallas in the first half. Thierry Henry completed the scoring.

The scoreline was hard on the African visitors who were using the game as preparation for a crucial World Cup tie with Cameroon on September 17.

Victory will insure their place in the 2006 World Cup finals in Germany at the expense of Cameroon.

But the evening was all about Real Madrid midfielder Zidane, who has come out of international retirement to boost France's World Cup qualifying effort.

His every touch was greeted with applause from a capacity 30,000 crowd in the Mosson stadium and he was quickly showing off his full repertoire of silky skills.

An early pass found the head of Arsenal striker Henry, who headed tamely over, while Zidane himself came close to opening the scoring after 18 minutes as he met Florent Maloude's neat pass and shot just over.

The breakthrough came after 23 minutes as sloppy defending allowed Chelsea's William Gallas to head his first international goal from Wiltord's corner.

Didier Drogba might have put Ivory Coast ahead moments before with a spectacular first time volley, but the Chelsea striker wasted a more straightforward opportunity just after the break.

A cross from Arthur Boka left him with only Gregory Coupet to beat but he headed over off his shoulder.

Ivory Coast were made to pay for their naivety in defense as Zidane was left unmarked to volley the second, while the best was reserved for last as Vikash Dhorasoo's inch perfect pass allowed Henry to hold off a defender and break his scoring drought for France.

As France relaxed the visitors went in search of a deserved consolation only for Boka's shot to skim the wrong side of Gregory Coupet's right post.

The game was preceded by a minute's silence for the 152 French citizens and eight crew who perished in Tuesday's aircrash in Venezuela.

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