9 July 2006


Materazzi 18  

Zidane 6 (Pen)

In the 6th minute Malouda made the most of Materazzi's clumsy challenge to win a
penalty. Zidane took one step forward then chipped the ball against the underside of
the crossbar and fortunately for him and France it bounced over the line. Materazzi,
who was clearly rattled, almost doubled France's lead with a poor header which had
Buffon scrambling at his past. Italy began to take control and equalised when
Materazzi punished abysmal marking in the French box to head in Pirlo's corner.
From a throw-on Gattuso burst past two players before giving the ball to Totti, Totti
rode a tackle from Vieira as he ran inside the box, Gattuso fed the ball to Toni and
just as he shot Thuram slid in to clear. That was the one moment of magic Italy
provided in the entire match. From the resulting corner Toni headed against the
underside of the crossbar.

At the start of the second half Henry gathered a loose ball, ran through Gattuso's
tackle and darted between two defenders in the box but hit a weak shot with Buffon
easily saved. Pirlo flashed a free kick just wide of Barthez's left post.

A fabulous move in which the French strung together 11 passes ended with Ribery
cutting inside Iaquinta and sliding a ball through to Malouda, who was flattened
by Cannavaro's heavy tackle from behind on the edge of the box, Ribery gathered
possession and a subtle feint took him clear of De Rossi but he dragged his shot
wide of a post. Seconds later he made way for Trezeguet. Another wonderfully
constructed move started with Gallas intercepting a Iaquinta pass and giving the
ball to Zidane, who was deep in his own half. The ball was worked down the right
through Zidane before he eventually passed out wide to Sagnol and ran into the
box where he met the defenders cross with a fantastic header which was matched
by Buffon's spectacular one handed save.

Early in the second half Wiltord came on for Henry who appeared to be struggling
with a minor knock. In an incident which will go down in World Cup infamy, Zidane
was sent off for head-butting Materazzi in the chest after the two exchanged words
when walking away from the Italy penalty area. This was similar to the Rooney mess
in that the ref missed the incident but on the advice of one of the officials took action,
well we assume that's what happened. In any case it was a deserved red card and a
sad way for Zidane to bring an end to a glittering career. Despite their numerical
advantage Italy couldn't put together any meaningful attacks and the game went to
penalties but without Zidane,  Henry and Vieira, who went off injured mid-way
through the second half, the odds were in Italy's favour.

Penalty Shoot-Out

Pirlo hits the ball high straight down the middle, awful penalty but Barthez goes the
wrong way

Wiltord blasts the ball into the bottom right corner, perfect penalty

Materazzi copies Wiltord by smashing the ball into the bottom right corner

Trezeguet crashes the ball against the underside of the crossbar

De Rossi. CRACKERJACK, top left corner, no chance for Barthez

Abidal sends the ball left of centre at a perfect height for Buffon who once again dives

Del Piero. I sure as hell thought he'd miss but he didn't thanks largely to Barthez
diving early

Sagnol hits the ball with extreme prejudice, poor height, poor placement, poor
goalkeeping, Buffon has been useless in this shoot-out

Grosso. Championship point. Top right corner, unstoppable. Great penalty

France were as good in the second half and extra-time as Italy were in the first. The
game was played at a painfully slow pace. Toni dived more in 120 minutes than
Cristiano Ronaldo has in his last three matches. Pirlo reverted to type i.e. kept giving
the ball away, Totti was beyond useless and Cannavaro didn't look anywhere near as
assured as he has done in previous matches. Good job Gattuso was off the charts, as
he has been all tournament. IMO Malouda was France's best player. Nothing
Materazzi said can excuse Zidane's headbutt. Zidane is no stranger to red cards.

France were the better side on the day but in the 2002 European Championship
final they came away with the silverware having been outplayed. What goes
around, comes around.

Italy survived the group of death, survived a cheap red card against Australia (and
got the break of a last second penalty) before crushing Ukraine and beating an
excellent Germany side in the game of the tournament. France peaked last week,
with their excellent victories over Spain and Brazil. It would have sucked had they
won the World Cup on the back of two dodgy penalties, they haven't  scored in open
play since beating Spain. Anyway two World Cups for one generation of players is
beyond greedy.

I enjoyed this tournament far more than the last World Cup, largely because the
traditional powers made it to the knockout stages. Germany played the best
football, Gattuso was the best player.

England are edged out by Portugal as the worst team in the tournament. Both teams
played negative football, Portugal showed more imagination, in bursts, but cannot
be forgiven for their histrionics and I loath teams with second rate players that punch
above their weight.

Penalties are a stain on the face of humanity but nothing will change while the
current, corrupt regime are in charge of the game. Let's hope by 2010 either Sepp
Bladder is out of power or six foot under and someone who has actually played the
bloody game at a high level is in charge i.e. Beckenbauer and not Bladder's stooge

Congratulations to Italy supporters everywhere and thanks to everyone for reading.
Stats will follow and enjoy your summer.

Italy win 5-3 on penalties

Attendance : 69,000
Red Card : Zidane 110 (France)
Assists : Malouda (won pen), Pirlo (fk)
R Mehdi