The beautiful game turned vicious, even venomous Sunday. It was all still
beautiful to Italy. And very ugly for France, which lost captain Zinedine Zidane
with a red card after his nasty head butt in extra time, and then went down 5-3
in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.(Click to
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Italy's Fabio Grosso (C) celebrates with team mates after scoring
the winning penalty during the penalty shootout in the World Cup 2006
final soccer match between Italy and France in Berlin July 9, 2006.
Explanations were nonexistent for Zidane's action in the 110th minute of his
farewell game. He was walking upfield near defender Marco Materazzi when, in his
final act for his national team, he bashed his shaven head into Materazzi's
"I have not seen the replays, but if it's voluntary then there's nothing you
can say," France coach Raymond Domenech said. "But it's a shame. It's sad. He
(Materazzi) did a lot of acting and for such a big man, a gust of wind made him
Not quite. Zidane, who is retiring, might have been provoked, but he
definitely knocked over Materazzi.
France's Zinedine Zidane (R) walks away after
fouling Italy's Marco Materazzi (L) during their World Cup 2006 final
soccer match in Berlin July 9, 2006. [Reuters]
"It's regrettable. We regret it, he regrets it," Domenech said.
Without their leader, the French still had their chance in the shootout. But
the Italians, never masters of the penalty kick, made all five, setting off an
hour of hugging, dancing and fist-pumping celebrations.
"This squad showed great heart," Gennaro Gattuso said. "Maybe it wasn't
pretty, but we were hard to beat."
They were impossible to beat and gave up only one goal actually scored by an
opponent. And no, it was not pretty.
Outplayed for an hour and into extra time, the Italians won it after Zidane
committed the ugliest act of a tournament that set records for yellow and red
cards, diving and, at times, outright brutality.
Asked if French soccer would miss Zidane, Domenech said:
"Yes, well, he was missed in the last 20 minutes tonight. It weighed heavily
in the outcome."
Without their leader for the shootout, the French only missed once. But Italy
was perfect. Fabio Grosso clinched the Azzurri's fourth championship, and his
teammates had to chase him halfway across the pitch to celebrate.
"It's incredibly emotional. Words can hardly describe it," Grosso said.
"Maybe we still don't realize what we have achieved. We really wanted to win and
in the end we made it."
Only Brazil has more World Cups, five.