Italy hold their nerve to claim fourth crown

Fabio Cannavaro, a player who has belied his diminutive stature with some giant performances this past month, fittingly closed the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ by holding the biggest prize in football aloft. Fireworks proclaiming a fourth FIFA World Cup for Italy exploded into the black skies above the Olympiastadion as the Azzurri party began, leaving France – and a disconsolate Zinedine Zidane – to their own thoughts.
What an occasion the 18th Final produced with excitement at the start and incredible drama at the end as Zidane, on his farewell to the game he has dignified for so long with his graceful skill, was shown the red card. On it went to a penalty showdown and five unerring Italian spot-kicks delivered them the title of world champions, with David Trezeguet the luckless player to miss. With Fabio Grosso converting, his country edged one Trophy behind Brazil in the pantheon of FIFA World Cup winners.

Zidane will remember this night for as long as he lives. France had promised to repeat their success of 1998 for their retiring captain and only he will know what possessed him when he thrust his forehead into the chest of Marco Materazzi. Zidane had to go, accompanied down the tunnel by the glare of thousands and thousands of flash bulbs and the tears of the legions of French supporters.
“Allez les Blues” they had chorused again and again. The Blues came through all right but it was the blue of Italy that held sway. France were wearing white but what colour they added to the occasion with their stirring comeback after Marcello Lippi’s side had threatened to put a stranglehold on the game.

Moment of the Day:

Mauro Camoranesi consoles David Trezeguet

There was irony in the failure of Trezeguet whose penalty – France's second - crashed against the crossbar and refused to cross the line. It was Trezeguet who struck the Golden Goal when the sides met in the final of UEFA EURO 2000 and left a scar that Italy had waited six long years to heal.

Trezeguet's pain now mirrored that of the famed Italians, Franco Baresi and Roberto Baggio, who had missed in 1994 and handed the FIFA World Cup to Brazil in the first, and hitherto only, penalty shoot-out in the Final. At the end his Juventus team-mate Mauro Camoranesi went to him and hugged him in sympathy.
What a start we had with Thierry Henry’s first touch resulting in a heavy collision with Cannavaro. As he lay prostrate France wondered if their hopes were about to be stilled as well. The stretcher was called but their three-goal marksman was able to continue.
Henry’s next involvement was to head on Fabien Barthez’s long kick, prompting Florent Malouda to accelerate into the heart of the Italian rearguard where Materazzi brought him down. Zidane’s seventh-minute penalty was nonchalant, a featherweight chip coming down off the underside bar and only just over the line.
At a stroke Zidane joined the list of players to have scored in more than one FIFA World Cup Final - a list that also includes Pele, Vava and Paul Breitner.

Player of the Day:

Andrea Pirlo - such cultured skills emanating from midfield

It caused barely a ripple in Italy’s assured stride. Their passes were sticking, their tackles hitting home. Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso had established command of midfield while down the right Gianluca Zambrotta and Camoranesi combined impressively.
It was Camoranesi’s persistence and tight control near the touchline that forced the corner that yielded the 19th-minute equaliser. Pirlo’s delivery was inch-perfect and Materazzi powered his header home.
Just at that moment the sun had reappeared from behind a cloud to throw light on Italy’s spirited recovery and stoke up the temperatures inside the arena. Henry began to emerge as a key performer, seemingly impossible to shrug off the ball, and that also brought the best out of the dynamic newcomer Frank Ribery.
France came close on several occasions and in extra time Zidane would have scored with a header had Buffon not denied him. The night was soon to take an even more devastating turn for Zizou, a moment of madness ensuring that his retirement began at least nine minutes earlier than it should have done.

Goal of the Day:

Fabio Grosso - such coolness under pressure
Trezeguet’s miss meant that as Grosso stepped up for the long walk from the half-way line the world was in his hands. A no-nonsense left-foot strike into the right-hand corner of the net underlined the contribution the Palermo defender has made to the Italian cause this past month. After a gap of 24 years they were world champions once more.

Marcello LIPPI (ITA):

The further we progressed in this tournament, the more we realised we could win it. Our confidence grew from match to match, especially when we beat Germany in a stadium that couldn't have been more perfect for them.
It was a special game, starting with that penalty, then an equaliser and a general drop in tension. We always had hope, even though we were up against great players. We stayed cool, and I would also like to thank the Italian supporters for their support. I'm a fan of (Zinedine) Zidane, but the fourth official saw what happened. It's bizarre to end your career like that, if it is the end of his career.
I knew if we scored our first penalty, we could score them all. Life hands you gifts sometimes and that's how I think of (Fabio) Cannavaro, the best defender in the world, and (Gianluigi) Buffon, who caused (David) Trezeguet to miss his spot-kick. But I was sure we were going to win because the players were very motivated by the idea of taking penalties.
(Francesco) Totti was feeling the effects of playing 120 minutes against Germany and perhaps he didn't recover in time. Now we'll enjoy this fantastic moment and later on we'll find out what's going to happen in the Italian championship. How do I feel right now? I'm a world champion and I've never experienced that before.


It's a huge disappointment. We prepared ourselves to be at our best, the team got stronger and that was all part of the plan. You could see that in how we were a notch above our opponents in extra time. The players now have to remember what they've achieved.
Zidane's red card was one of the turning-points of the match, as was Vieira coming off (with an injury). We found ourselves with ten men at a time when we were controlling the game. As for the incident itself, the fourth official saw what happened and informed the referee. The assistant referee saw nothing. I don't know what (Marco) Materazzi said, but he's the Man of the Match, not (Andrea) Pirlo. It's Materazzi who equalised and provoked Zidane's sending-off. It's sad, but I think the Italian player made a meal out of what happened.
Zidane would normally take one of the first penalties in a shoot-out but his not being there didn't change much. I can't fault the players, they did their best. Was it enough? No. All I can think about now is the disappointment. My own future is not important at the moment. I'm sad for Zidane because he was always there for us during this competition. I'd have preferred substituting him five minutes before the end so he could have received a different ovation from the crowd to the one he got.

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