THE FINAL DAY REPLAYED: Fabio Cannavaro, a player who has belied his diminutive stature with some giant performances this past month, fittingly closed the 2006 FIFA World Cup™ by holding the biggest prize in football aloft. Fireworks proclaiming a fourth FIFA World Cup for Italy exploded into the black skies above the Olympiastadion as the Azzurri party began, leaving France – and a disconsolate Zinedine Zidane – to their own thoughts.
What an occasion the 18th Final produced with excitement at the start and incredible drama at the end as Zidane, on his farewell to the game he has dignified for so long with his graceful skill, was shown the red card. On it went to a penalty showdown and five unerring Italian spot-kicks delivered them the title of world champions, with David Trezeguet the luckless player to miss. With Fabio Grosso converting, his country edged one Trophy behind Brazil in the pantheon of FIFA World Cup winners.
Zidane will remember this night for as long as he lives. France had promised to repeat their success of 1998 for their retiring captain and only he will know what possessed him when he thrust his forehead into the chest of Marco Materazzi. Zidane had to go, accompanied down the tunnel by the glare of thousands and thousands of flash bulbs and the tears of the legions of French supporters.
“Allez les Blues” they had chorused again and again. The Blues came through all right but it was the blue of Italy that held sway. France were wearing white but what colour they added to the occasion with their stirring comeback after Marcello Lippi’s side had threatened to put a stranglehold on the game.
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