Italy Outlasts France to Win 4th World Cup Title

French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez misses a penalty shot by Italian defender Fabio Grosso. i i

hide captionThe winning goal: French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez misses a penalty shot by Italian defender Fabio Grosso.

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French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez misses a penalty shot by Italian defender Fabio Grosso.

The winning goal: French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez misses a penalty shot by Italian defender Fabio Grosso.

Odd Andersen/AFP/Getty Images
French team captain Zinedine Zidane gestures after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

hide captionA shocking moment: French team captain Zinedine Zidane gestures after head-butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi. The revered sports figure was ejected from the game.

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The Italy-France World Cup final should have been the crowning glory of Zidane's stellar career

hide captionThe Italy-France World Cup final should have been the crowning glory of Zidane's stellar career — but a red card after a brutal head butt puts that legacy in doubt.

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Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro celebrates with the World Cup trophy in Berlin. i i

hide captionOn the shoulders of his cheering teammates, Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro celebrates with the World Cup trophy in Berlin.

Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images
Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro celebrates with the World Cup trophy in Berlin.

On the shoulders of his cheering teammates, Italian defender Fabio Cannavaro celebrates with the World Cup trophy in Berlin.

Nicolas Asfouri/AFP/Getty Images

BERLIN (AP) — Italy let France do nearly anything it wanted Sunday, except win the World Cup. That belongs to the Azzurri, 5-3 in a shootout after a 1-1 draw.

Outplayed for an hour and into extra time, the Italians won it after French captain Zinedine Zidane was ejected in the 107th minute for a vicious butt to the chest of Marco Materazzi. It was the ugliest act of a tournament that set records for yellow and red cards, diving and, at times, outright brutality.

And it was the last move for Zidane, who is retiring.

Without their leader for the shootout, the French only missed once. But Italy, rarely strong in such situations, made all five. Fabio Grosso clinched the Azzurri's fourth championship, and his teammates had to chase him halfway across the pitch to celebrate.

Only Brazil has more World Cups, five.

Until now, no team since the last Azzurri champions in 1982 had to endure the stress and anguish of a soccer scandal. Rather than be disrupted by the current probe ripping apart the national sport back home, the Italians survived.

In the final, they outlasted France, which underwent a renaissance of its own in the last month. The French controlled the flow of play, only to fail to finish through 120 minutes.

Their only goal, Zidane's penalty kick in the seventh minute, was the lone score by an Italy opponent in seven games.

But the Italians put the ball into the net 12 minutes later on Materazzi's header off a corner kick. And then they held on in a game marked by sloppiness and venom.

This was hardly artistic on either side, and rarely did Italy threaten over the final 75 minutes. But the Azzurri ignored recent history - they lost a quarterfinal shootout to France in 1998, when Les Bleus went on to their only championship.

Andrea Pirlo, Materazzi, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Del Piero all easily beat France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez in the shootout. The difference was the miss by rarely used David Trezeguet, which hit the crossbar on France's second attempt.

When Grosso connected with his left foot, the sliver of Italian fans in the opposite corner of Olympic Stadium finally could let out their breath - and screams of victory.

On the trophy stand, amid hugs and slaps on the back, Materazzi placed a red, white and green top hat on the Jules Rimet Trophy. Captain Fabio Cannavaro then held it high as cameras flashed everywhere. An impromptu Tarantella by the players followed as silver confetti fluttered around them.

It was, by far, the prettiest sight of the night.

With a 25-game unbeaten streak dating back nearly two years, the Italians added this title to their championships in 1934, 1938 and '82 - when another match-fixing investigation plagued Serie A.

The hero then in Spain was striker Paolo Rossi, fresh off a two-year suspension for his role in match-fixing. This time, there were a dozen stars and a coach, Marcello Lippi, who seemed to make all the right moves.

Italy won its first-round group over the higher-ranked United States and Czech Republic, and Ghana. Then it beat Australia on a controversial penalty in the second-half extra time that Francesco Totti converted.

It routed Ukraine 3-0 before depressing the host nation with two stunning goals in the final minutes of extra time for a semifinal win over Germany.

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