France coach Raymond Domenech blamed Italian defender Marco Materazzi for provoking Zinedine Zidane into a headbutt which brought a memorable career to an infamous end in the World Cup final on Sunday.
Zidane was shown the red card in the second period of extra-time after he butted Materazzi in the chest, sending him sprawling.
The defender appeared to have said something to Zidane as the French captain walked past, causing Zidane to turn around and lunge at the Italian.
"Something happened, that's for sure," Domenech said. "I can't imagine that Zidane wanted to be sent off.
"Materrazzi is the man of the match, not Andrea Pirlo. He scored and he got Zidane sent off."
Domenech said that Zidane, who has declared he will end his playing career after the World Cup, was the victim of rough treatment from his Italian opponents throughout the final in Berlin's Olympic Stadium.
"When one has to put up with what he had to for 80 minutes and the referee doesn't do anything, one understands. You can't excuse it but you can understand it.
"To see him finish his career in this way is sad. He has had a great career and a great World Cup."
Domenech also claimed that Zidane had been sent off after the fourth official had seen the incident on video and informed referee Horacio Elizondo.
Italy defender Gianluca Zambrotta, a former teammate of Zidane at Juventus, criticised him, saying the headbutt was a "spiteful gesture".
"I wasn't surprised because he did that when he played for Juventus," Zambrotta said.
While playing for the Italian club in 2000, Zidane was sent off and banned for five matches after headbutting SV Hamburg player Jochen Kientz in a Champions League match.
Italy coach Marcello Lippi denied that goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had urged the referee to dismiss Zidane.
"We didn't request any action, it was the fourth official who told the linesman," Lippi said.
He said the French supporters in the crowd who booed Zidane's dismissal "didn't see what happened, but when they do tomorrow they'll think again".
"I've got great admiration for Zidane, I don't know what was going through his mind," Lippi said.
Buffon said: "It was sad to see such an unsporting gesture from such a great player."
Franz Beckenbauer, the World Cup chief organiser, was convinced that Materazzi must have insulted Zidane to cause him to react in such a manner.
"Something must have been said to Zidane. He is actually a reserved and inoffensive person," Beckenbauer said.
The man who won the World Cup as a player and coach said Zidane's dismissal cost France dearly.
"He weakened his team. We know how sensitive the French are when they lose their captain."
Former France coach Michel Hidalgo defended Zidane after he was sent off the 12th time in his career.
"When you know him, you know that they must have been very cruel words for him to react like that," Hidalgo said.
Source: China Daily