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World Cup Day 31 - Italy, Campioni del Mondo

A game that was set to be the pinnacle of a career, a crowning glory for the player of a generation, ended for him in a moment that will, although not define his career, be a lasting memory.

Zinedine Zidane had earlier put France ahead with a deftly, chipped penalty after only seven minutes and had throughout the game - and certainly in the second half, been the game's dominant player. Linking well with Ribery and Vieira in midfield, he was the creative spark, finding himself time and space to create openings against an obdurate defence that again gave little away.

But just when there was time for one last moment of magic to win a game and leave another image of greatness, he lashed out. Perhaps in retaliation, possibly in frustration, but from that moment with just ten minutes remaining, he swung the pendulum in Italy's favour - and they needed no second invitation.

Italy - belying their woeful history with shoot-outs, looked confident and assured, wheras France - shorn of Vieira, Henry, Ribery and of course Zidane, could not catch-up once Trezeguet's effort crashed back off the bar and it was left to Fabio Grosso to slot home on win the World Cup for the Italians.

The game itself was an absorbing one, with chances created but of course with both defences on top throughout. It was a surprise therefore that the game saw two goals within the opening twenty minutes.

France struck first. Florent Malouda 'earning' a penalty after Materazzi's ill-timed challenge as he advanced into the box, resulting in Zidane's exquisite chip to put them 1-0 ahead.

Italy hit back though with Materazzi earning a degree of redemption. Pirlo delivered a superb corner from the right and Materazzi climbed higher thn Vieira to head past Barthez.

The remainder of the first half was fairly even, but it was the second half that France began to dominate. Italy appeared less attacking than in the semi-final, but credit must be given to France who had Malouda and Ribery in support of Henry with Zidane and Vieira pressing forward. This gave little opportunity for Gattuso and Perrotta to create, isolating the effectiveness of Pirlo. It also meant that the marauding runs of Grosso and Zambrotta were limited - if not non existent.

Still, there were not too many clear cut chances created. Henry had an impressive spell and worked tirelessly throughout but the best chances were headers. Highlighting the differing attacking threat, Italy saw two efforts from Luca Toni - one hitting the bar and one ruled out for offside both from Pirlo delivered set pieces, whilst Zidane's effort (wonderfully saved) was the end product of a fantastic piece of interplay between himself and Ribery.

Extra-time was not as pulsating affair as hoped, and was largely action free until Zidane's moment of madness. There is a great picture on the front of The Times where Zidane is walking - head bowed in reflection of his actions, passed the World Cup trophy that he hoped to hoist in triumph.

Italy, in contrast to their semi-final, appeared willing to take their chances with the penalty shoot-out and - even against ten men, declined to take a chance to the win the game despite fielding Iaquinta, Toni and del Piero in attack late in the game.

Penalties it was to be then, and ultimately, as I read in The Times this morning:

"...rather than Grosso, they will be talking about the man who was not there for years"