Roundup: Italy wins 2006 World Cup title

Italy have broken their penalty jinx on Sunday in Berlin, winning 5-3 on shootout over France for their fourth World Cup triumph after holding 1-1 in 120 minutes.

It's the first championship for Azzurri in 24 years after they last lifted the trophy in 1982, though the Italian side brought a formidable resume to Sunday's match of three World Cup titles and five appearances in the final.

"I have to say thanks to the players. This is the most satisfying moment of my life," said Italian coach Marcello Lippi.

"I dedicate the victory to my family. The players have unlimited heart, character and personality. Winning the World Cup is the greatest satisfaction that any coach or footballer can ever feel."

"I've had the fortune to win the Champions League and lots of Serie A titles, but I've never felt anything like this," he added.

Being one of soccer's traditional powers since the tournament began in 1930, Italy only other stamped their supremacy in the event's Stone Age of 1934 and 1938.

Captain Fabio Cannavaro, playing in his 100th game for Italy, said his side had achieved what nobody thought they could.

"Germany won the World Cup in Italy and now we have come here and won it," he said. "No one would have imagined it at the start of the World Cup, but we have won so we're happy."

Sunday's game has been regarded a best chance of the Italians to again put hands on the toppest glory of the soccer world after decades.

Azzurri made the semifinals at home court in 1990, only being stopped by Argentina on penalties. Four years later they reached the final in the United States and lost to Brazil again on penalties.

At the 1998 World Cup finals, the penalty shootout duck continued to harass them as they advanced to the quarterfinals before losing to hosts and eventual winners France on penalties, again.

In 2002, Ahn Jung-hwan's golden goal sent Italy home after only the second round, although the defeat to South Korea was blamed on Ecuadorean referee Byron Moreno.

But in Sunday's final, the first all-European World Cup since 1982, the Italians faced off the penalty jinx with courage and skills, and they eventually made it.

"We had fear of the penalties," commented Gennaro Gattuso after Sunday's shootout. "Our history was not great, so that was the fear."

Fabio Grosso struck the winning penalty for Italy, and said: "It's incredibly emotional, words can hardly describe it. Maybe we still don't realize what we have achieved. We really wanted to win and in the end we made it."

Andrea Pirlo, Marco Materazzi, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Del Piero and Grosso all kicked their penalty past French keeper Fabien Barthez, while David Trezeguet turned out the one to blame for France's loss.

The veteran striker, 29, came as the second French player to the spot, driving the ball to hit the bar before it bouncing out of the goalmouth line.

Les Bleus, overcoming a slow start and criticism of aging, has reached its second tournament final in three World Cups by playing soccer reminiscent of its 1998 World Cup and 2000 European Championship triumphs, carrying a more impressive list of victims Spain, Brazil and Portugal, comparing to Italy beating Australia, Ukraine and Germany.

Zinedine Zidane, who had lifted his team more than anybody, ruined his career at the final match before he retiring from international football, committing an ugly sending-off in 20 minutes of the extra time on Sunday.

The Real Madrid midfielder clearly headbutted Italian left-back Marco Materazzi in the chest in 109 minutes with none of the officials had seen it.

Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo was finally notified why the Italians were furious and decided to flash Zidane a red card to cut France down with ten men, while Malouda was also booked for complaining.

France coach Raymond Domenech rued on the dismission of Zidane.

"The sending off of Zidane changed the match, that was the key moment of the game," he said. "We had been playing better than Italy in extra time and you could see they were just waiting for penalties.

"It was a pity that we were without Zidane for the last 10 minutes, it affected our balance and perhaps it should not have happened."

"The referee was not on our side. I don't know what Materazzi told Zidane. All I know was the man of the match was not Andrea Pirlo but Materazzi, he scored the equalizer and he had Zidane sent off," he added.

"It's sad, it's a pity. He really put on a great show when he fell down. We know how these things work."

Materazzi headed in an equalizer at 19 to help Italy come back from behind and hold France 1-1.

The Inter Milan left-back atoned for giving away the 7th minute penalty, which gave France an earlier chance to open the scoring, jumping high to meet Andrea Pirlo's corner and powered a header beyond French goalie Fabein Barthez for the equalizer.

Earlier, Materazzi had clipped down Florent Malouda on the 6th minute while the Lyon midfielder went on ball into the box with Fabio Cannavaro failing to mark him, and Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo handed Les Bleus a penalty.

French skipper and inspirition Zinedine Zidane came to the spot in the next minute, chipping the ball onto the underside of the bar, before it fortunately bounced over the line, to put France in lead.

The Les Bleus should have come to a title-winning goal earlier in the extra time as Frank Ribery played a wonderful one-two with Malouda but his shot from the edge of the area rolled narrowly wide of the target at 99.

Zidane, who will quit the international football after Sunday's match on an age of 34, took another chance for France after just five minutes, founding Sagnol out wide who delivered a ruthless cross into the box for the French master to head at goal, but Buffon tipped it over the bar.

France have committed an early concern in the first minute of the game as Thierry Henry lied prone in the center circle after running into Fabio Cannavaro. The sole striker of France was waved back on by the referee four minutes later.

It's Italy, however, who have had the most possessions before the interval, and each side attempted three shots with two on goal apiece.

Pirlo lofted a dangerous cross into the area in 28 minutes after Mauro Camonranesi's pass forward deflected off Eric Abidal's foot to force a corner. Materazzi rose again to win a header, but the referee blowed for a foul.

Just a minute later, Italy won a free-kick and Francesco Totti fancied his chances, before Malouda charged the shot well to make a block.

The AS Rome Prince slipped a lovely pass through to Luca Toni at 36 inside the area but his shot is deflected behinde for a corner.

On the next minute, Pirlo delivered another devilish corner and this time it's Toni whose allowed space to pound a free header at goal, but it crashed against the bar.

France's first half chances came in 31 minutes when Henry drifted down the left wing before passing the ball square to Malouda on the edge of the area, but his shot was weak and floated into Gianluigi Buffon's arms.

Seven minutes later, France again came forward on the break with Henry and won a corner after strong defensive work from Cannavaro. Although Zidane's delivery found William Gallas, the header was well off target.

The French side then took over the control after the break, making 6 shooting attempts with 2 on goal against Italy's none with less than a quarter to go within the regular time.

Henry has been on fire as he dribbled round a number of Italians into the area at 47, but his gentle shot rolled into Buffon's arms.

Four minutes later, Zidane's ball into the box was cleared away and Frank Ribery blasted his follow up well over the bar.

At 58, Abidal went well down the left and swung a cross into the area which found its way to Zidane before the magician shot was blocked.

France were back in attack in 63 minutes with Henry had the ball at his feet inside the area, but his powerful shot was saved by Buffon.

Azzurri's best chance of the half came in 76 minutes when Italy won a free-kick 30 meters away after substitute midfielder Alou Diarra fouled Toni and picked up a yellow card for his efforts.

Pirlo delicately curled his shot over the wall but the ball just bent agonisingly wide when it looked like to nestle in the bottom corner.

On the 62nd minute, Italy had the ball in the net after Toni's header from a Pirlo's free-kick flied past Fabien Barthez, but the linesman ruled it an offside.

Source: Xinhua



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