Fabio Grosso scored the decisive spot-kick as Italy claimed their fourth FIFA World Cup triumph, edging a dramatic penalty shoot-out 5-3 against a France team that had been reduced to ten men when Zinédine Zidane was dismissed for head-butting Marco Materazzi in extra time.
It was an acrimonious end to a wonderful career for Zidane, who had looked like bowing out on a high when his audacious penalty gave France an early lead. Materazzi had conceded that spot-kick but made amends on 19 minutes with a superb headed equaliser and although both teams had chances the game drifted into extra time and, after Zidane's red card, penalties. There, Andrea Pirlo, Materazzi, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Del Piero and Grosso all converted as substitute David Trezeguet, scorer of the decisive golden goal that saw France beat Italy in the UEFA EURO 2000™ final, hit the bar.
The teams went into the game having conceded just three goals between them en route to the final but the deadlock was soon broken when Florent Malouda was tripped by Materazzi on seven minutes. Zidane stepped up and chipped a brilliant penalty in off the crossbar – his third goal in World Cup finals. Materazzi almost directed Thierry Henry's cross into his own net minutes later as the Azzurri made a shaky start but they gradually began to impose themselves and were soon level. The villain of the piece 12 minutes earlier, Materazzi atoned in perfect fashion, rising to power in Pirlo's outswinging corner.
He almost repeated the feat soon after but was penalised for a push as the French struggled to deal with his towering presence at dead-ball situations. Luca Toni saw an effort superbly blocked by Lilian Thuram with the interval approaching, before heading the subsequent corner against the crossbar. The half-time whistle ended Italy's ascendancy, however, as France started the second period brightly, Henry driving into the penalty box although his side-footed effort possessed neither power nor direction. He was soon at it again, jinking into the area but again his final touch let him down.
A goal looked a matter of time but France lost their shape when Patrick Vieira was forced off with a hamstring injury before the hour. Toni had a fine headed effort disallowed for offside and Henry forced Gianluigi Buffon into a save as a winning goal proved elusive as the final drifted into extra time. In the aditional half hour Franck Ribéry fired just past the post before being replaced by Trezeguet, whose penalty miss was to prove decisive as the Azzurri triumphed.
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