The Evening in Berlin

Buildup: 2006 FIFA World Cup Final !!!!! France Vs Italy, The Grand Finale at the Olympia Stadium, Berlin. According to FIFA, 1.5 Billion individuals globally watched the finals. If you look back to 2006, the world population at that time as per official figures were 6.6 Billion. So, mathematically, 1 in 6 person around the world watched the game. Crazy Crazy Numbers!!! We all know, what a global sport football is and the FIFA World Cup finals is the highest viewed event across the world.

Plot : My initial days of following football revolved around Germany, and since the 2006 World Cup was hosted by Germany, they were the clear favorites and why not. A team having Jens Lehmann at back (Arsenal Invincible), Philipp Lahm (Slowly becoming the best LB in the world), captained by Michael Ballack and led the line by Miroslav Klose ( FIFA Golden Boot winner). They were my favorites as well. A special version of the famous song ‘Hips Don’t Lie’ (Bamboo Version) by Shakira lifted the mood and atmosphere ever further. For the finals, I had my full support for France, the reason being they had a player named Zinedine Ziddane, who was also the Captain and he was one of the finest attacking midfielder of that generation.

Summary: The finals started as per the promise and the scoring was opened by Zidane himself in the 7th minute with the help of a precise but controversial penalty, conceded by Marco Materazzi. The Olympia erupted and rightfully so. It took 12 minutes for Italy to equalize, through Materazzi’s goal courtesy of a beautiful header assisted by the dead ball specialist Andrea Pirlo. Both teams had their fair share of chances and Italy hit the crossbar twice courtesy of a brilliant Luca Toni’s hit and a Gatusso’s scrocher. France were denied a possible second penalty when Florent Malouda went down in the box. France were a better side throughout the 90 minutes because of the higher number of shots on goal. They were denied time and again by Gigi Buffon’s heroics at the other end of the pitch and the scoreline read 1:1 at the end of 90 minutes. Three minutes of added time read the LED, and then there will be Additional extra Time. At the end of stoppage time, Gigi Buffon made a potentially game saving save when he tipped a Zidane bullet header over the cross bar courtesy of a Thierry Henry pass. 30 minutes Extra Time and then we will possibly have the winner. At the end of 105 minutes ( HT of AET) the scoreline still read 1:1. France made a couple of bold substitutions. Frank Ribery made way for David Trazeguet ( Golden Goal scorer against Italy in the Euro 2000 final) and Thierry Henry made way for Slyvian Wiltord. The time read 110′. 10 minutes to go for the final whistle.

Zidane Sending Off: Football is an intense game, a game of nerves, a game of character, of mentality. Few words were exchanged between Zidane and Materazzi after Marco was seen tugging at Zidane’s jersey before Zidane began to walk away from him. Moments later, he stopped, turned around and head butted Materazzi’s chest, knocking him to the ground. The crowd was numb, I was numb, the players in shock, everyone rushed towards Marco and surrounded him. Zidane knew, he made a mistake, a mistake that will cost his team the World Cup, a mistake that will hurt him forever. I am literally in tears as I type this. The images are flashing back. The memories are still fresh like yesterday’s. The drama which unfolded in the pitch was not spotted by the referee Horacio Elizondo, but was spotted by the 4th official Luis Medina Cantelejo. After consulting, Zidane was given a red card in the 110th minute. He became the 4th player to be red-carded in a World Cup final and the 1st to be sent off in extra time. France were down to 10 man, and had 10 minutes to find a winner, else there would be penalties. France did manage to survive and the game as expected went to penalties.

Penalty: Italy won the penalty shootout, eventually winning the 2006 World Cup, courtesy of goals from Andrea Pirlo, Marco Materazzi, Daniel De Rossi, Alexando Del Piero and Fabio Grosso. Fabian Barthez was not able to save any of it.

Reactions: Zidane later apologized but he added that he did not regret his offence. Over a year after the incident, Materazzi confirmed that his words to Zidane were: ” I prefer the whore that is your sister” to Zidane’s reply of “If you want my shirt, I will give it you afterwords”

It’s rightfully said, “Attack wins you matches and defense wins you tournaments“. But, Italy did not win the final because of the defense, they won it because of Zidane. They won it because they won the mind game.

Signing off !!!!!