30,000 fans erupt as Zidane scores on triumphant comeback

ZINEDANE ZIDANE made a triumphant return to the international stage last night the talismanic midfielder lifting France to a 3-0 win over Cote d’Ivoire.

Zidane, lured out of retirement to help France's ailing World Cup campaign, added style and substance to Raymond Domenech's side in this warm up to next month's crucial qualifier against the Republic of Ireland.

With the 33-year-old's every step cheered by a sell-out 30,000 crowd the Real Madrid star, wearing the captain's armband, crowned his comeback with a second half goal which was sandwiched by efforts from William Gallas and Thierry Henry.

Zidane's return to the international fray was down to some fast-talking by the wily Domenech and a mysterious apparition at his bedside.

And he quickly made his mark 11 years to the day that he first donned a French shirt when in the 19th minute he came up with an angled shot that narrowly edged over the crossbar.

Another veteran Lillian Thuram was also returning but the Juventus defender's comeback lasted barely half an hour when he had to limp off injured to be replaced by Sebastien Squillaci.

France went in front when Gallas marked his 28th birthday in the best possible way when he scored in the 28th minute in what was first ever goal for his country.

The Chelsea defender's powerful header off a sweetly struck corner from Sylvain Wiltord flew over Cote d'Ivoire keeper Jean-Jacques Tizie giving the Blues due reward for some entertaining play.

Just before the break Zidane produced a neat cross for Willy Sagnol over on the right who knocked it back to 'Zizou' only for his header to be scooped up safely by Tizie.

Then on 61 minutes the stadium erupted when Wiltord sent a corner flying across the goalmouth for Zidane who flicked the ball left-footed into the corner of the Cote d'Ivoire net.

His beaming smile told its own story as he savoured his 27th goal in the national shirt.

Five minutes later Thierry Henry, like Gallas also celebrating his 28th birthday, got in on the act with a fine solo effort when he saw off a lone Cote d'Ivoire defender and Tizie to produce an acute left-angled shot which trickled into an empty goal.

FRANCE: Coupet, Thuram (Squillaci 24), Boumsong, Gallas, Sagnol, Dhorasoo, Makelele (Diarra 88), Zidane, Henry (Cisse 71), Wiltord (Trezeguet 80), Malouda (Rothen 71).

IVORY COAST: Tizie, Boka, Domoraud (Eboue 46), Kolo Toure, Tiene, Zoro Kpolo, Zokora (Demel 70), Yapi Yapo, Dindane, Drogba (Bakary Kone 78), Kalou (Romaric 46).

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