9 July 2006
Italy are world champions for the fourth time after beating ten-man France 5-3 on penalties after a 1-1 draw in Berlin's Olympiastadion on Sunday, 9 July 2006.
Twelve years after losing to Brazil in the first shoot-out in a FIFA World Cup™ Final, Italy made up for that heartbreak as all five men in blue converted their kicks to claim world football's greatest prize for the first time since 1982. For France the pain of defeat was compounded by the sight of Zinedine Zidane, on his last appearance as a professional, leaving the field having been sent off in extra time for butting Marco Materazzi off the ball.
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 and spark celebrations all the way from Bergamo to Bari.
If penalties can resemble a lottery, there could have been no more deserving matchwinner than Grosso, such a positive influence for Italy throughout this tournament. He was one of several Italians prominent in a first period where the Italians played the more fluent football, although it was France who took an early lead.
Eight years after scoring twice in the FIFA World Cup Final in Paris, Zidane opened the scoring with a seventh-minute penalty after Materazzi’s trip on Florent Malouda. By the 19th minute, however, Materazzi had made amends, the big defender heading the equaliser from Andrea Pirlo’s corner.
Although both sides threatened to score a second – notably Italy’s Luca Toni, who headed against Fabien Barthez’s crossbar before the break - neither managed to add a second. Extra time brought a scare for Italy when Buffon had to tip over Zidane's header but soon afterwards the France captain was making the sad walk to the dressing rooms.