The fans' emotions ranged from anger to despair, sorrow to disbelief.

"I just cannot understand what was going through Zidane's head, it just doesn't make any sense," said one fan, Cyrille Bonet referring to Zidane's off the ball head-butt on Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

"Italy didn't deserve it but it's typical of the Italians, they played terribly for the whole match and then they win it on penalties," Cyrille's brother Emmanuel, added.

Eight years ago it was a different story in the streets and boulevards of the French capital as tonight's scenes of misery contrast greatly to those of 1998 when France defeated Brazil in the World Cup final.

Influential captain Zidane was having a reasonably good match in his final international appearance, having scored the opening goal from the penalty spot, only to ruin his farewell with an inexplicable action.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy told press that police were "ready" for any crowd violence during or after the match, with 12,000 police and military personnel standing by across the country.

Security is high following riots in France last November, and 500 arrests following violent celebrations after France's 1-0 semi-final victory over Portugal earlier in the week.