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Monday, July 10, 2006

Italy is the Soccer World Cup Champions after penalty shoot out

By Stuart Watt in Berlin

Italy is celebrating its first World Cup win in 24 years after beating France 5-3 in a penalty shoot-out at the end of a drama-filled final in Berlin this morning.

The match saw French legend Zinedine Zidane's career end in a moment of madness after he was sent off in extra time for head-butting Italy's Marco Materazzi.

Zidane had earlier scored a seventh-minute penalty to give France the lead before Materazzi - who had conceded the penalty - headed home an Andrea Pirlo corner 13 minutes later to level the scores.

The match finished 1-1 at the end of extra time, and the shoot-out saw David Trezeguet hit the bar with his spot kick before the Fabio Grosso buried his spot kick to send his countrymen into delirium.

Zidane was shown a straight red card for attacking Materazzi after the Italian had grasped him around the midriff during play.

Words were exchanged between the pair and Zidane thrust his head violently down into Materazzi's solar plexus.

After consulting with his linesman, Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo sent an incredulous Zidane off.

The result was hard on a French team who dominated after half-time, but just could not break down an Italian defence led superbly by captain Fabio Cannavaro, playing his 100th international match.

Zidane could have won it for France late in the first period of extra time when he met a cross from full-back Willy Sagnol.

Zidane rose imperiously and, as memories of Stade de France and Zidane's two headed goals in France's World Cup win eight years ago flashed through the minds of millions of French football fans, he headed the ball hard and true.

But he did not head it down, and Gianluigi Buffon flew high to palm the ball over the crossbar.

Earlier Italy dominated possession in the first 45 minutes and it looked like only a matter of time before they would score.

But France came out after the break inspired by their stars Henry and Zidane and from that point on the French were much the better side.

Italy's only real chance in the second half came when forward Luca Toni headed home a free-kick, but the goal was ruled out for offside.

The second half in particular was frantic. This was no dour arm-wrestle - both sides attacked with vigour.

The result was a game played the way a final should be, like every chance to attack might be your last.



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