The head of Zinedine Zidane could have brought a sense of triumph to France in the final of the World Cup yesterday instead it brought a sense of disbelief and despair.
It could have been the perfect finish to the career of the greatest European footballer of his generation and after France had taken the lead from Zidane’s penalty it looked as if it would hold true.
But Italy’s Materazzi soon equalised and the two teams were deadlocked and neither seemed likely to score until the perfect chance fell to the head of Zidane but a heroic save by the Italian goalkeeper Buffon denied him.
Then in the second period of extra time came incident that will be forever remembered as the defining moment of this World Cup, Zidane seemed to lose his head and headbutted Materazzi in the chest, which after the intervention of the fourth offical caused the French captain to be sent off.
Who can say whether losing their talismanic leader cost France the match? I don’t think it’s true, the Italian penalty takers were flawless and France seemed fairly composed and unaffected, so I think it just simply came down to the awful nature that is the lottery of the penalty shootout.
Interestingly Zidane will be the only French player to leave the tournament with a trophy. He was awarded the Golden Ball for the best player of the tournament, an award that was voted on by the press during halftime of the final. It’s likely that had the voting taken place after the match then he probably would not have won this award.