Italy are champions

Italy are the World Cup champions of 2006 after they defeated France 5-3 on penalties after 120 minutes of football could not find a winner.

    Ending a career with authority

    Just as they did in 1982, the Azzurri were able to leave match fixing scandals at home to win the ultimate prize in football.

    French striker David Trezeguet, who plys his trade in Italy, was the man who handed the advantage to Marcello Lippi’s men after his penalty attempt smashed against the woodwork.

    Like Germany in their quarter-final, the Italians converted all five of their penalties with defender Fabio Grosso landing the telling fifth and final one to earn his country their fourth World Cup title.

    Extra time ended with high drama when French captain Zinedine Zidane, who at one stage seemed destined to end his career on the highest possible note, was sent off for head- butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

    After a trivial tussle between the pair the Real Madrid player lashed out with a wild lunge at the Italian’s chest.

    It was an offence which demanded a red card, but it was a tragic way to end the career of one of the finest ever footballers.

    The match started with a bang when French midfielder Florent Malouda collapsed in the box when under pressure from Materazzi, with referee Horacio Elizondo pointing to the spot.

    The perfect start

    The penalty looked harsh and when taken in the context of the debate about diving, FIFA officials must have wondered whether the genie was out of the bottle, as contact looked minimal to say the least.

    Whether French coach Raymond Domenech will be as keen a foot soldier in his "War on Diving" remains to be seen.

    French talisman Zidane stepped up and looked to coolly chip the ball into the back of the net - it almost went horribly wrong when the ball hit the crossbar, but luck was on the 34 year old’s side as it deflected over the line before springing back into the field of play.

    His final international match had started so well, few could imagine how it would end.

    The advantage lasted just 12 minutes when Inter Milan player Materazzi rose above France’s Patrick Viera to drive the ball home from an Andrea Pirlo corner.

    All square

    The villain in the Malouda penalty had found his redemption.

    Ten minutes before the break striker Luca Toni had a similar effort rattle against the crossbar from a corner after his first attempt from open play had needed desperate intervention from defender Lilian Thuram to snuff out the danger.

    The Fiorentina striker was also desperately close on 62 minutes when he glanced a header past French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez only to have his celebrations halted by the referee's assistant's flag being raised for offside.

    Replays proved the decision was the correct one.

    Two minutes later Arsenal striker Thierry Henry forced a fabulous save from Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and the scores would stay level for the 90 minutes.

    Extra time was dominated by France with Zidane himself having the best opportunity when a header took the full reach of Buffon to prevent him a fairytale ending.

    Minutes later the would be fairytale became a nightmare.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera


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