Italy defeated France 5-3 on panalties (1-1 a.e.t.)Goals: Zinedine Zidane (France), Marco Materazzi (Italy)
Italy dominated the ball possession in the first half, but in the last 75 minutes, their defence was seriously tested for the first time in the tournament. France scored the first goal of the match, thanks to some ‘unforced’ drama by Florent Malouda. He was not challenged in anyway in the Italian box, but the referee allowed the spot kick, only to be chipped past the goal line by Zidane. France 1-0 up! Italy kept their cool and equalised after 12 minutes from an Andrea Pirlo corner that found the head of Materazzi. Fabien Barthez dived in vain. France 1 Italy 1! There was no goal from then. France led all the attacks, but only to be dispersed by the Italian defence belt. Gianluigi Buffon showed why he is the world’s best goal keeper with an outstanding save in the extra time to deny a French victory through Zidane’s ‘first’ header.
It was a game of numbers. The 4th Italian world cup win; Italy’s 25th successive unbeaten streak; skipper Fabio Cannavaro’s 100th cap for Italy. All made merry in Berlin, as Italy killed the spot kick demon that haunted them for long. All the five Italian kickers were on target, and David Trezeguet’s unfortunate miss by a whisker put France one down. When the find of the tournament Fabio Grosso ensured his left footed stroke shook the net, the Azzurris exploded into celebrations! Italy to be crowned world champions for a fourth time.
The Italian defence remained unbroken right throughout the tournament. They conceded only two goals, one an own goal and the other from a penalty kick. One cannot do much about those, but no field chances could be converted by any of the opposition. Though Zidane won the Golden Ball, Cannavaro deserved it more. Fabio Grosso was the best outcome of the tournament. The stubborn defence and working midfield of Italy again showed the world the art of rejecting, and coach Marcello Lippi could blend with that the new face of Italian football – an attacking facelift shared by all the three varieties of players, defenders, midfielders and strikers! Dearest critics, either fall in love with the Azzurris please….
Photos: Chicago Tribune, FIFA