Words: Luca LaPorta
On this day in 2006, Italy beat France 5-3 on penalties in Berlin, winning their fourth World Cup.
After beating hosts Germany in a nail-biting semi-final, the Azzurri had a tough task in knocking off Zinedine Zidane’s powerful French side.
The match started in probably the worst way possible for Marcello Lippi’s men. The referee awarded France an extremely controversial penalty kick in the seventh minute of the match, in which Zidane calmly put past his former Juventus teammate Gianluigi Buffon.
The Azzurri had to move on from that setback, with focus on not conceding another, as a two-goal deficit would be near impossible to come back from in a Final.
Italia didn’t waste any time getting themselves back into the match. Just 12 minutes after conceding, off an Andrea Pirlo corner kick, Marco Materazzi’s header found its way in from six yards out to level the match. Game on.
The teams traded several chances that could’ve been possible winners throughout the match. Luca Toni hit the crossbar in the first half, while France had a serious penalty appeal waved away in the second. The French also had a few quality chances, which were parried away by a spectacular Buffon.
The 2006 World Cup Final needed extra time and was heading towards ‘calci di rigore’. The match then took a massive twist.
French superstar and captain Zidane head-butted Materazzi square in the chest in an off the ball incident. Whether the fourth official saw it in real time or on monitors will never be entirely clear, but undoubtedly Zizou had to go. With only 10 minutes left in extra time, Les Bleus were shaken and their best player walked off down the tunnel, refusing to glance at the trophy on his way past.
The Final ultimately required penalties to get a winner. The nerves were indescribable, particularly for the Azzurri, who had been eliminated from the last three World Cups this way and already lost the 1994 Final on spot-kicks.
Here’s how the penalties went down.
Andrea Pirlo: GOL!
Sylvain Wiltord: Goal.
Marco Materazzi: GOL!
David Trezeguet: NO GOAL! CROSSBAR!
Daniele De Rossi: GOL!
Eric Abidal: Goal.
Alessandro Del Piero: GOL!
Willy Sagnol: Goal.
If the Azzurri score here, they will be the Champions of the World for the fourth time. Unexpected last taker, but the man whose goal against Germany deep into extra time got Italy this far…
Fabio Grosso: GOOOOOOOL! CAMPIONI DEL MONDO, CAMPIONI DEL MONDO!!!
A day we will never forget, July 9, 2006!