Zidane's career ends in a fit of madness | india | Hindustan Times
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Zidane's career ends in a fit of madness

Zizou was sent off by referee in a humiliating manner after he headbutted Italy defender Marco Materazzi on the chest in dying minutes of extra-time.

india Updated: Jul 10, 2006 03:34 IST

Zinedine Zidane's career ended in high drama in the World Cup final here Sunday, the French legend scoring a penalty and then losing his temper and getting a red card for assaulting Italy defender Marco Materazzi.

After flashes of brilliance on his 108th and last cap the master midfielder had, not for the first time, a complete loss of control in the 19th minute of extra time, headbutting Materazzi - who had levelled the match earlier - viciously in the chest after the Italian defender appeared to insult him.

Referee Horacio Elizondo originally missed the incident but had no hesitation in pulling out a red card after consultation with his linesman to bring a sour and dramatic end to Zizou's glorious career.

Without their talismanic skipper France went on to lose 5-3 on penalties after the match had ended 1-1.

Zidane, whose petulance already saw him suspended for France's last group game against Togo, trudged off to the dressing room, hurling his sweat band down in frustration as he became the fourth player ever to be redcarded in the final.

The 34-year-old three time World Footballer of the year's moment of madness meant his last act in a France shirt was to walk past the World Cup trophy placed tantalsingly on the touchline at the Olympic Stadium rather than lifting it aloft for a second time.

It had taken Zizou - who was sent-off in the first round match with Saudi Arabia in 1998 - all of seven minutes to make a more positive mark on his last appearance for his country when France were awarded a contentious penalty after Materazzi's tackle on Florent Malouda with the great man walking up to the spot.

Taking his usual two step run up the French legend saw Gianluigi Buffon diving to the right and almost nonchalantly chipped the other way.

But his heart must have skipped a beat as he watched the ball hit the cross bar, only for the rebound to bounce over the line for his third goal of the competition and the 31st of his career.

He became only the fourth player to score in two World Cups, this coming after his two flash headers lifted France past Brazil in the 1998 final in Paris.

And it also made him the first opposing player to break Buffon as Italy's only conceded goal up to the final was Cristian Zaccardo's own goal against the United States.

Zizou had posted imperious performances to haul France into the final against Spain, Brazil and Portugal but Italian midfielders Gennaro Gattuso and Andrea Pirlo were doing a good job of curbing his balletic skills.

With France President Jacques Chirac among the 69,000 crowd Zidane took a tumble after a collision with Italy skipper Fabio Cannavaro and needed the attention of the French medical staff in the 80th minute, his recovery sparking relief and jubilation among Les Bleus' supporters.

Just as in the Euro 2000 final the 2006 meeting between the two countries went into extra time and with it Zidane's date with retirement was handed a lifeline.

As he took his position for the restart Lilian Thuram, who made his debut in the same friendly against the Czech Republic back in August 1994 and who was also wearing his country's shirt for the last time came over and shook his hand.

Could the magician as Pele described him produce one last trick? The answer was very nearly yes, with only Buffon's lightning reflexes stopping his thunderous header in the 105th minute.

The 'old' man was evidently enjoying his one last hurrah, coming off at the end of the first half of extra time smiling from ear to ear.

But then the red mist descended to turn out the light on a genius who has lit up France's path to a World and European title in the past decade.

nr/pi06