Can we not say we saw it all today in Berlin? I got my beloved and immortal 4th star, while a legend of the game, on par with Pele and Maradonna goes mad at the maniac of Italy as Zizou headbutts Matterazzi?!?!?! What on gods green earth in Berlin was he doing.....whatever it was it did not do anything other than disturb the Soccer gods as Italy won the shootout and the 2006 World Cup. We'll talk finals by halves and extra time.
FIRST HALF: The game started out like a firecracker, France getting the ball up to Henry rather easily as Malouda and Ribery ran rampant of the wings. After an auspicious penalty which never should have been called in the first 10 minutes of any match, France was up 1-0 from the Zizou cheeky, yet almost too much, penalty. Italy then took the game by the scruff and took complete control. Pirlo running the show as Italy got up and down the wings that they converted into several set-piece chances. The set-pieces proved to be the key to the Italian attack. France simply had NO answers for any set-pieces, whether corner or free kicks. Matterazzi who was guilty of the penalty, squared the match with a magical header over Viera off a corner kick. The early goal seemed to make the French take their foot off the gas and they really didn't recover in the first half. And so the game went to the locker room 1-1, and I kept dreaming of any deadball opportunities.
SECOND HALF: In what I thought would be the last major push of the aging French, Les Bleus came out gangbusters in the second half. But as the 70th minute approached, the only signs of the aging maestros slowing down came from Viera pulling up lame with a bum hammy. A shame for sure for the Senegalese warrior. But France didn't miss a beat as Diarra came in, other than he became the sucker that all French fouls would be called on! France kept pressing without too many troubling chances, but they controlled possession and tempo. Lippi tried to take back control by subbing out Perrotta and Totti (never got on track the entire Cup...), with De Rossi and Iaquinta. Let's talk Iaquinta....the man simply does not fulfill a specific role on the field, even though he was playing on the wide right, why not let Gilardino run wild? After Gila's unselfish semi-final showing I think he could have been a much bigger threat, even coming off the right side. Alas Iaquinta was in and young De Rossi got his reprieve, as he was called on in his first duty since the Mcbride elbow red card. Unfortunately he didn't seem to mesh into any real role, and never really had a chance to stretch his young legs. France kept pushing but again had few, if any quality chances. Domenech decided to leave the fate of his team in Wiltord and Trezeguet's shoes, taking off Henry and Ribery.....let me say that again - taking off Henry....is there any circumstance with extra time looming you could think to remove Thierry Henry from the game?!?!? In the words of Gnarls Barkley, "I think you're crazy....". So regular time ended, still knotted at 1-1.
EXTRA TIME: Had hope against hope that Italy would come out like madmen as they did against Germany in OT, but alas France kept the pedal to the metal....coming and coming though not really testing Buffon. Then a last chance for the completion of the Zizou fairytale...Zizou sent a pass out wide to Sagnol and darted for the 6 yard box, Sagnol lifted a perfect cross to the inexplicably unmarked Zizou who unleashed a cracker off his head toward the top of the goal. As replays showed Gigi Buffon went up with his right hand and masterfully guided the shot over the bar and shouted in exultation at the moment of denial towards Zizou. Is this the moment where the legend blew his fuse? he rarely shows any emotion towards missed chances, but was beside himself over the missed opportunity, heading the ball pretty much right at Gigi. So the game went to it's last 15 minutes. Again France controlled the tempo as none of Italy's subs could provide any extended possession for the Azzurri. Then the moment of madness...after another deep French excursion the ball was played out for Italy, big Matterazzi was marking Zizou, as the play went upfield they seemed to have a bit of a chat. Matta didn't seem to be speaking to vociferously, yet Zizou turned into El Bull, as he took 3 steps and headbutted the heck out of Matta's chest. IT GETS WORSE EVERY TIME IT IS SHOWN! So it was the energy and life seeped out of 10 man France and Domenech's crazy subs left him with only 2 offensive veterans come penalty time.
SHOOT-OUT: Bottom line, everyone struck a beauty. Trezeguet missed by an inch, and where Zizou's penalty hit the bar and went in early, Trezegoal's was not to be. Italy won the shootout on Grosso's 5th shot, Italy 5 for 5 in the shootout and World Champions - Gigi had a funny post game quote about the shoot-out: "I still can’t believe it. It’s as if we’ve won some other trophy. It’ll be different tomorrow when I’ve had some time to think about what’s happened. I definitely would’ve saved the fifth penalty, but my team-mates were good enough to make sure it didn’t come to that." Amen to that brother...and so the fourth star will forever be embroidered on our National Jersey's....only 1 behind the samba boys yet again...sleep well Cup lover's, I will.