WORLD CUP : Italy crowned World Champions

Berlin, July 9 :

Italy won the football World Cup after beating France 5-3 in penalty shoot-out in Berlin this evening.

After an absorbing game, which was locked 1-1 in normal time, Italy defender Fabio Grosso scored the decisive penalty after David Trezeguet missed.

Playing his last game before retiring, Zinedine Zidane’s career ended in disgrace after he was sent off for crazily headbutting Marco Materazzi.

Zidane had put France ahead early on with a coolly-taken chipped penalty, before Materaazzi levelled with a header from an Andrea Pirlo corner.

It was Italy’s first successful shoot-out in a FIFA World Cup after previous failures in 1990, 1994 and 1998 and ironically it was a miss from France’s David Trezeguet — whose golden goal had defeated the Azzurri in the final of UEFA EURO 2000 — that opened the door for Fabio Grosso to fire the winning spot-kick past Fabien Barthez.

The final began with the most extraordinary of opening goals after Materazzi was adjudged to have illegally halted the progress of Malouda as he hurtled into the box. The resultant penalty saw two adidas Golden Ball candidates face off, and it was Zidane who prevailed, if only just, with an impudent chip that deceived Buffon, but rebounded off the underside of the bar and dropped down no more than a foot over the line.

In the ninth minute, Materazzi came close to doubling Les Bleus’ advantage when he glanced a Willy Sagnol cross into the side-netting. Ten minutes later, Italy hauled themselves level thanks to Pirlo’s dead-ball mastery and the aerial ability of Materazzi, as the latter gained spectacular redemption for his earlier blunder by towering above the French defence to score past Barthez.

Henry started the second half in threatening mood, breaking into the Italy box but failing to trouble Buffon.

In the 50th minute, Henry showed remarkable balance to carry the ball past three defenders but he could not pick out a white shirt with his low ball across goal, Zambrotta clearing the danger.

Despite the loss of Patrick Vieira with hamstring injury, France continued to take the game to the Azzurri. France breathed a sigh of relief when Toni headed home a Pirlo free-kick only for the linesman to raise his flag for offside. As the clock ticked down, the game became scrappy with neither side enjoying any sustained possession. Pirlo was not far off target with a 25-yard free-kick, curling the ball narrowly wide of Barthez’s right-hand post.

In the extra time, France were dominating and Zidane was denied a second goal only by the excellence of Buffon. In the 111th, final took another twist as referee Horacio Elizondo brought play to a halt and went up to the other end of the field where, after consulting with his linesman, he sent off Zidane for an off-the-ball incident with Materazzi.

Painuly, an editorial consultant with The Himalayan Times,

is writing exclusively for the paper from Germany