Italy wins 4th World Cup, Zidane leaves in shame
10 July 2006
BERLIN – Italy claimed a fourth world title in a penalty shoot-out victory over France after the two sides finished a goal apiece following extra-time in Berlin’s Olympic Stadium on Sunday.
Italy edged the shoot-out 5-3 to add to the titles won in 1934, 1938 and 1982 and banish the bitter memories of a defeat on penalties to Brazil in the 1994 final in Pasadena.
Italy now hold the most World Cup titles following 2002 winners Brazil who have five titles.
The 18-carat massive gold trophy was handed to captain Fabio Cannavaro by German President Horst Koehler after Franz Beckenbauer, president of the World Cup organizing committee, handed out the medals to the players. The last time the World Cup was held in Germany, in 1974, Beckenbauer was himself lifting the trophy.
This time it was Cannavaro, on his 100th appearance for Italy, joyfully holding up the cup as his team-mates jumped and danced for joy before beginning a lap of honour to fireworks and ticker tape.
While the players celebrated coach Marcello Lippi strolled over the tape-strewn pitch savouring the moment with a cigar.
“I have never felt joy like this ever before. This is the greatest thing a sportsman can experience. We are all overjoyed,” Lippi said.
The final ended in disgrace for France captain Zinedine Zidane, who was sent off in the 20th minute of extra-time on his last game before retiring from professional football.
Zidane, apparently responding to something Marco Materazzi said, turned and head-butted the Inter Milan central defender in the chest.
Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo did not see the off-the-ball incident but after consulting with his linesman, showed Zidane the red card.
Italy goalkeeper Gianluca Buffon consoled Zidane before the playmaker left the field with his head bowed, but it was the keeper who alerted the referee to the incident.
“I saw Zizou give him the head-butt. I thought something had to be said so I went to the referee. I wanted to protect the team,” Buffon said.
France coach Raymond Domenech said: “We are anything but happy. We did not lose the match because a penalty shoot-out is like a draw. Football will miss Zinedine Zidane, and today we missed him in the last minutes.”
Zidane, bidding to lift the World Cup for the second time after 1998, had earlier scored France’s opening goal with a cheeky chipped penalty.
It was something out the ordinary from the 34-year-old midfielder, but the assault on Materazzi – scorer of Italy’s equalizer – was a moment of madness which will remain a blot on his career.
Zidane did not return from the dressing room to join his dejected team-mates to receive their medals.
In the penalty showdown, Andrea Pirlo, who was named man of the match, Materazzi, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Del Piero and Fabio Grosso all converted for the Azzurri.
Without Zidane or Thierry Henry, who had been substituted, France were lacking two specialists for the penalty showdown.
David Trezeguet, an extra-time substitute, then missed the decisive penalty for his side when he blasted the ball against the bar, while Sylvain Wiltord, Eric Abidal and Willy Sagnol all converted their spot kicks.
The game had had got off to an incident-packed start when Materazzi brought down Florent Malouda, and Zidane coolly chipped the ball over the diving Buffon in goal to give France a 7th-minute lead. The ball bounced off the underside of the bar, but over the line before rebounding back onto the bar.
Materazzi made amends by leaping over Patrick Vieira to head Italy back level in the 19th minute. Luca Toni thundered a header onto the bar in the 36th minute as Italy got the upper hand.
Both sides were then able to cancel each other out for long spells with France looking the more dangerous the longer the game wore on, but Henry up front forged a lone fight and the French sorely missed someone in the area whenever they penetrated the Italian defence.
Extra-time saw France in the ascendency. Franck Ribery went close with a shot just wide, and Zidane saw a header brilliantly saved by Gianluca Buffon in goal.
Zidane could have been the hero then, but minutes later he was instead the villain in a World Cup which will always be remembered for a sad end to a distinguished playing career.
Subject: World Cup 2006, German news. Zinedine Zidane