Penalty kicks bring Italy the trophy

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Penalty kicks bring Italy the trophy

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Italian defender Fabio Grosso’s name translates to “large.” And the former fourth-division player lived up to his name, smashing a left-footed shot into the goal early yesterday to clinch a 5-3 penalty shootout victory over France and bring Italy its fourth World Cup title.
“I took the last penalty because we wanted to get those who could score more easily up first,” Grosso told Reuters. “You’re never sure about taking a penalty. It’s to the credit of a great team that we got our hands on the World Cup.”
The 190-centimeter-tall (6-foot-4) Grosso’s heroics helped make Italy the leader among European nations for World Cup titles, and second overall to Brazil. Grosso also set up the game-winning penalty kick against Australia in the round of 16 match and scored the winning goal in extra time in the semifinal against Germany. He’s now expected to play a greater role with Inter Milan, a first-division club in Italy.
The victory for Italy comes amid allegations of corruption and match-fixing incidents involving some of the nation’s top professional clubs. All 23 Italian national team members play professionally in Italy, and 13 of them are with the four charged teams, Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio. Prosecutors are seeking to demote the teams to lower divisions.
“If the scandal hadn’t happened, I think we wouldn’t have won the World Cup,” midfielder Gennaro Gattuso told The Associated Press. “It has given us more strength.”
Team captain Fabio Cannavaro acknowledged that he had to calm down his teammates in difficult moments as details surfaced about the scandal during the tournament, adding to The Associated Press, “and there have been many [such moments] in these seven matches.”
The runner-up France can now only wish it had someone with a similar calming influence in the dying minutes of the game. Instead, its leader lost his cool and was sent off.
French captain Zinedine Zidane, who retired from soccer after the World Cup, ended his last game with a red card.
Zidane scored on a penalty kick six minutes into the match, giving France the early lead. Zidane became just the fourth player to score at least three goals in the World Cup final: he had two against Brazil in the 1998 final.
But in the 111th minute, Zidane headbutted Italy’s Marco Materazzi in the chest, becoming the fourth player to be sent off in a World Cup final.
Materazzi exchanged a few words with Zidane before the incident, but refused to divulge what he said. Other Italian players said they were aware of Zidane’s history of bad temper.
Playing for Juventus five years ago, Zidane headbutted Jochen Kientz of Hamburger SV in a Champions League match, also earning a red card. At the World Cup eight years ago, Zidane was red-carded and suspended for two games after stomping on Saudi Arabia’s Faoud Amin in a first-round contest.
At this World Cup, he collected two yellow cards and was suspended for France’s third group match against Togo.
A man of few words, Zidane has often let his play on the pitch do the talking. He walked off the pitch in tears, and left the stadium in Berlin without a comment.
“It was too bad, a totally useless gesture,” French coach Raymond Domenech told Reuters. “ We regret it and he also regrets it.”
Domenech admitted that the absence of Zidane, France’s best playmaker, cost the team its momentum in the last 10 minutes of the extra period.
In the shootout, France was missing all four players who had scored for the team in the tournament, including Zidane. Forward Thierry Henry and midfielder Frank Ribery were substituted in extra time, while midfielder Patrick Vieira left during the second half with a hamstring injury.
With those goal scorers watching helplessly from the bench, David Trezeguet, who scored the golden goal against Italy in the Euro 2000 championship game, had his shot rattle off underneath the crossbar and land just in front of the goal line for the miss.
“Penalties are part of the game and I was prepared to take the responsibility,” Trezequet told Reuters. “We had a very good World Cup but in the end the whole thing came down to the penalties.”
Italian coach Marcello Lippi said he was glad the match reached the penalty shootout. “I was sure we were going to win because the players were very motivated by the idea of taking penalties,” he told FIFA’s World Cup Web site. “I knew if we scored our first penalty, we could score them all.”
Indeed, Andrea Pirlo got the ball rolling, and Materazzi, Daniele De Rossi, Alessandro Del Piero, and Grosso followed suit.
“It’s an overwhelming joy. It will take time to fully sink in,” Pirlo told the World Cup Web site. “It was a hard game, but we knew it would be. We fought hard until the match finished.”
This year’s World Cup will be remembered for the low-scoring nature ― 14 fewer goals scored than the previous one and no hat trick for the first time in World Cup history ― and for the record number of red and yellow cards. Champion Italy allowed only two goals the entire tournament, one more than France did in winning the 1998 World Cup.
Perhaps it was fitting then that the final match featured just two goals in regulation, and four yellow cards plus a red card. It was only the second time that the World Cup winner was determined in the shootout.


by Yoo Jee-ho

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