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Monday, July 10, 2006

Football World Cup Final

Zidane self-destructs; Italy wins on penalties

A genius self-destructed himself on a fateful night in front of a billion people and without much to separate the two teams, Italy scored all five penalties to win the 2006 football world cup by defeating France by 5-3 after the score was tied at 1-1 after 90 minutes of play and 30 minutes of extra time.

The game had a slow start with Henry being injured in the first minute of play, then France scored with a special and lucky Zidane goal after Malouda was felled in the penalty box. Italy played well in the first half and had most of the ball possession and managed to equalize soon with a Materazzi header, from a perfect corner kick taken by Pirlo, which Barthez could only watch sail inside the net. Italy hit the crossbar in the first half and looked the better team for the first forty-five minutes. France came back strongly in the 2nd half and Italy it seemed was doing all the defending. The ball was in Italy's half and they had seven players defending the goal.

It was even stevens at the end of 90 minutes of play with France getting the upper hand in the 2nd half while Italy controlled the first half after an early French goal.

The first half of extra time was uneventful except for a Zidane header in the 104th minute that Buffon saved with a spectacular jump to push the ball above the crossbar.

In the 119th minute, Zinedine Zidane; captain, friend, talisman,, and hope of France; playing in his final International game and the biggest match of the world cup did an unthinkable thing, against the run of play he headbutted Materazzi, who had heckled him while defending, and sent him sprawling to the ground. Zidane had just self-destructed himself. Wonder what happened, and why the sudden rage on the greatest stage of footballing history from a person who was the epitome of grace and modesty on the football field, but it did happen and Zidane in his final International match had to leave the field with a red card.

Even without the red card the match was heading for a penalty shoot out because the only team that was playing to score a goal was France. Italy was defending from the 46th minute to the 120th minute of play. Goals are what matters and the French could not put the ball behind Buffon's back.

After a 120 minutes of absorbing fooball it came down to the penalties. Neither Buffon nor Barthez could save any shots, but Buffon got lucky when Juventus team-mate and French substitute David Trezeguet's shot hit the crossbar and didn't go inside the net. The Italians scored all five penalties, Barthez couldn't save any of those shots, and France missed one out of four. Fabio Grosso scored the fifth penalty to make Italy the champions of the world.

It was an absorbing contest between two evenly matched teams, although it would have been even better had Italy decided to attack ion the second half, they didn't but they held on to draw the match and prevailed in the penalty shootout.

Zinedine Zidane's exit wouldn't have made the difference because there were only ten minutes left for the match to go to penalties, but it was sad to see a great player leave the biggest stage in the footballing world with a red card, and at the end of it all there was ticket tape, smiles, and joy for the Italians while it was dejection for the French.

So Italy are the world champions of football until 2010 and hope Argentina with Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez, and Saviola take the magic they created for some part of this world cup to 2010.

Did the most deserving team win the World Cup? The best defending team won the world cup. Italy converted the penalties when it counted and they won the match and the World Cup.

Argentina versus Germany was a fabulous match and so was the one between Mexico and Argentina. Germany played well to take the third place with a convincing win over Portugal.

So the world football order on July 9, 2006 is
1. The Azzurri Italy
2. Les Blues France
3. Germany
4. Portugal

It will be a question of passionate debate on why a team played the way it did, and why did a player react in an extreme way, and supporters of both teams would have their own reasons.

For a neutral football fan it was an absorbing game, not exciting and free-flowing but nevertheless an absorbing context and I was sad for Zinedine Zidane, he didn't deserve this farewell. If Zidane would have stayed and France would have lost, still it would have been a fitting farewell, but this exit through a red card feels sad for a great player.

So that's the end of the 2006 FIFA football world cup, now it's back again to empty boring evenings and no matches to watch at nights.

Berlin, Sunday, July 9, 2006
2006 FIFA World Cup Final
120 minutes of play - Italy 1 France 1
Penalty shoot out Italy 5 France 3

Score: Italy 6 France 4

Football is a fabulous game.