Sunday, July 09, 2006

Italy Wins World Cup

It was a game for the history books, one of three previous World Cup finals that pitted countries that shared a border with each other. Italy beat France 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out to win the World Cup after an absorbing 1-1 draw in Berlin.

What truly can be said about soccer or football, as the rest of the world knows it, is that this game really was a World Championship. Every country had a chance to play and the best teams made it to the final round. For both Italy and France it was an opportunity to make up for lost time. The last time Italy had made it to the finals and won was in 1982. France won in 1998 after the superb leadership and sportsmanship of Zinedine Zidane, and many will admit that France’s poor performance in 2002 was due to the fact that Zinedine was plagued with injuries.

Playing his last game before retiring, Zinedine Zidane's career ended in disgrace after he was sent off for crazily head butting Marco Materazzi. Only Zidane knows why he chose to shove his head into Materazzi's chest after the two had exchanged words with 10 minutes left of extra-time, an act that cost him a second World Cup title, and probably haunting him for the rest of his life.

It had been Zidane had put France ahead early on with a coolly taken chipped penalty, a goal after six minutes that meant Zidane, who scored twice in the 1998 final, became the fourth man to score in two World Cup finals after Brazilians Vava and Pele and Germany's Paul Breitner. Italy recovered well from their unfortunate start and the industrious Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso quickly began to set the tempo of the game, before Materazzi leveled with a header from an Andrea Pirlo corner. Through Pirlo's dead-ball delivery, the AC Milan midfield maestro whipped over a corner from the right and Materazzi thumped a header past Fabien Barthez.

Fabio Grosso scored the winning goal after France's David Trezeguet missed. The result caps an incredible period for Italian football, with the domestic game embroiled in a corruption scandal similar to 1982 when they last won the World Cup. They have now won the competition four times, one fewer than Brazil, and it was the first time they managed to win a World Cup match on penalties after three failed attempts. For a complete break-down of the game and Italian World Cup history see the link below:

The World Cup has a long and illustrious past. The players, coaches, fans, and countries that have participated over the years have shown a sporting event, much like the Olympics, that for a brief moment allows people across social-economic, ethnic, religious, and gender lines to unite. Political differences are set aside and pure athleticism is praised. It is sad the world must wait four years for its reoccurrence.

Statistics provided by the BBC:

Italy: Buffon, Zambrotta, Cannavaro, Materazzi, Grosso, Camoranesi (Del Piero 86), Pirlo, Gattuso, Perrotta (Iaquinta 61), Totti (De Rossi 61), Toni.Subs Not Used: Amelia, Barone, Barzagli, Gilardino, Inzaghi, Nesta, Oddo, Peruzzi, Zaccardo.
Booked: Zambrotta.
Goals: Materazzi 19.
France: Barthez, Sagnol, Thuram, Gallas, Abidal, Ribery (Trezeguet 100), Vieira (Diarra 56), Makelele, Zidane, Malouda, Henry (Wiltord 107).Subs Not Used: Boumsong, Chimbonda, Coupet, Dhorasoo, Givet, Govou, Landreau, Silvestre.
Sent Off: Zidane (110).
Booked: Sagnol, Diarra, Malouda.
Goals: Zidane 7 pen.
Italy win 5-3 on penalties.
Att: 69,000.
Ref: Horacio Marcelo Elizondo (Argentina).
Fifa man of the match: Andrea Pirlo

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