Rome and the rest of Italy are holding their breath for tonights soccer World Cup final in Berlin. Streets and squares will be eerily deserted of Italians as the Azzurri play France for the most famous trophy in world sport.

One venue that will be far from deserted is the historic Circus Maximus in Rome, where more than 200,000 supporters are expected to watch the game on giant screens. It will be an ocean of red, white and green flags, with shopowners admitting they are staggered by the number of flag sales over the past week.

Both the Italians and the French have strong motivations to lift the World Cup, other than the obvious historic prestige of being crowned winners.

For the Azzurri it is an opportunity to reclaim some honour for Italian football in the wake of its domestic sporting scandal - four league teams are currently standing trial for allegedly trying to influence the outcome of matches.

However, Italys cause has not been helped by an injury to key defender Alessandro Nesta, who has not played in the teams last three games and misses out again tonight.

For the French, victory would provide the ultimate send-off for captain Zinedine Zidane, who is playing his last-ever game for his country and is already being hailed one of the sports greats.

Italy have met France, or Les Bleus, five previous times in major tournaments, and honours are even with two wins apiece and a draw.

But the Azzurri will be out to erase the painful memories of their last clash in the European Championships final in 2000 - France scored a last-gap equaliser and went on to win in extra time.

Italians remember well how the street party had to be cancelled that night, and will be hoping to make up for it tonight after a famous victory in Berlin.

Tonights game kicks of at 20.00 Rome time. It will be shown on Sky TV and Rai Uno (see www.skytv.it and www.raisport.rai.it for further details).