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Rediff.com  » Sports » Italy are world champions

Italy are world champions

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Last updated on: July 10, 2006 02:55 IST

Italy beat France 5-3 on penalties in the World Cup final after the teams finished level at 1-1 after extra-time in a dramatic encounter, in which French playmaker Zinedine Zidane was sent off.

David Trezeguet hit the bar with his spot kick and the decisive penalty in the shootout was scored by Fabio Grosso.

France captain Zinedine Zidane was sent off after 111 minutes for a head butt into the chest of Marco Materazzi after the two players had a heated exchanged of words.

The game had got off to a controversial start when Thierry Henry needed extensive treatment after being dazed by a Fabio Cannavaro body-check as the Italy captain made an early impact in his 100th international.

The worried French fans were soon cheering however when Florent Malouda drove into the box and was felled by a clumsy challenge from Marco Materazzi.

Zidane stepped up to take the seventh-minute penalty, opting to nonchalantly dink it above the diving Gianluigi Buffon and the ball struck the bar before bouncing down behind the line to put France ahead.

Zidane nevertheless gave a nervous glance towards the linesman, who correctly signalled the goal, before peeling away in celebration of the first goal an opposition player had scored against Italy in the tournament.  

ZIDANE GOAL

Zidane, who headed two goals in the 1998 final, became the fourth player to score three times in finals after Brazilian duo Vava and Pele and England's Geoff Hurst, who got a hat-trick in the 1966 final.

Italy equalised after 19 minutes when Materazzi atoned for his earlier misdemeanour by rising magnificently above Patrick Vieira to head home an Andrea Pirlo corner from the right.

It was the first time both teams had scored in the final in 20 years and Italy went close to getting their second in the 36th minute when Pirlo curled in another tempting corner which striker Luca Toni headed against the bar.

Henry, who was a frustrated, unused substitute in the 1998 final against Brazil, burst into life at the start of the second half.

Twice he jigged through the defence with dangerous runs and then had a sharp shot blocked by Buffon.

France were looking the more dangerous although Fabien Barthez was beaten again in the 62nd minute by a Toni header which was ruled out for offside.

France lost key midfielder Patrick Vieira to a hamstring strain midway through the second half but maintained the pressure amid the tiredness as the error count rose.  

Six years ago Italy led in the final of the European Championship until injury time when France grabbed an equaliser and then won with a golden goal.

EXTRA TIME

There was no late drama in the 90 minutes this time, however, and the final went into extra time for the fifth time.

France remained the more sprightly, Franck Ribery shooting just wide after 99 minutes and Zidane forcing a spectacular save from Buffon five minutes later after meeting a Willy Sagnol cross with a stunning header.

Italy had beaten Germany with two goals at the end of extra time in their semi-final but the Italians looked out on their feet on Sunday and were unable to reproduce anything close to the same level of creativity this time.

The match turned into chaos soon after halftime in extra time when Zidane felled Materazzi with a head butt.

The officials seemed to miss the incident but after it was replayed on the giant screens Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo ended the French captain's career nine minutes prematurely with a straight red card. Zidane is retiring after the World Cup.

Even so, having lost all three of their previous shootouts, including against France in the 1998 quarter-finals and Brazil in the 1994 final, Italy must have feared worst.

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