Zinedine Zidane’s impact on management at Real Madrid has been nothing short of spectacular, whilst it has superbly complemented his successful playing vocation and style. The former attacking midfielder had sublime poise and technique, as he illustrated his ability in the biggest moments.
He scored in two World Cup finals along with what has been regarded as the greatest goal in Champions League history in the final against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 and he won countless individual awards including three FIFA World Player of the Year trophies.
However, he ended his playing career in a peculiar manner, although not completely uncoordinated with his past traits. This example of the rare side of his personality was at an untimely moment though and certainly surprised the watching viewers.
France reached the 2006 World Cup final after drawing their first two group games against Switzerland and South Korea before improving in the knockout stages to see off Spain, Brazil, and Portugal. Their opponents Italy had a comfortable run beating Ghana, Czech Republic, Australia and Ukraine along with a draw versus USA, until they defeated hosts Germany after extra-time in the semi-final.
Both teams underwhelmed on their way to the meeting at the Olympiastadion in Berlin, although the confrontation between Zidane and Marco Materazzi ensures it will never be forgotten. The Italian defender appeared to upend Flourent Malouda inside seven minutes, although replays showed minimal contact, with Zidane dispatching the resulting penalty off the underside of the crossbar using a delightful ‘Panenka’ chip.
Andrea Pirlo’s corner was headed in by Materazzi to bring the sides level 12 minutes later, which set-up an entertaining and open encounter. Materazzi almost scored again only to be denied by Lilian Thuram, whilst Luca Toni, Franck Ribery, Malouda and Zidane all came close to adding to the score line.
Into extra-time and France’s No.10 did the unthinkable when he headbutted Materazzi in the chest with 10 minutes remaining. It was the last game of his distinguished professional career and his teammates watched on in shock, as Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo produced a red card.
Zidane had reacted to provocation from the Internazionale defender, which Materazzi later confirmed to Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. He said: “I was tugging his shirt, he said to me ‘if you want my shirt so much I’ll give it to you afterwards,’ I answered that I’d prefer his sister.”
At the end of the 120 minutes of playing time, Italy converted all five of their penalties with Materazzi among the takers to claim their fourth World Cup. Juventus striker David Trezeguet was the unfortunate player to miss for France.
“It was the most important victory of my career, it was a dream for every child, boy and player,” said Italian full-back Gianluca Zambrotta to The Sportsman. Zambrotta was a teammate of both Zidane and Trezeguet at Juve, but it wasn’t the time for empathy as the Azzurri recorded their first trophy in 24 years.
“We celebrated for two days afterwards and then relaxed with our families. All the fans wanted to touch us and it was difficult to relax in the restaurants. There would be 200-300 people trying to get close to us, but it was very nice.
“I was very excited because people would say ‘thank you very much for what you have done’. You start to be a little bit proud about yourself for what you have achieved.”