As the Italians celebrate their fourth World Cup victory, it saddens me to think that the lasting impression of this World Cup final will be Zinedine Zidane's send-off. Zizou headbutting Marco Materazzi is an image that I just can't get out of my mind.
Neither football nor Zizou deserved an end like this, and someday, I will perhaps have a fuller explanation of exactly what happened to make him react the way he did. Perhaps he was frustrated at being constantly thwarted, or perhaps Gianluigi Buffon's remarkable save of his header pushed him over the edge - only the future will tell us.
When I began this column, I remember making a plea for all my fellow players to display the right sporting spirit at all times. Zizou's inexplicable act certainly does not merit that description, and speaking from experience, a more level headed and imperturbable footballer is hard to find - as his penalty in the seventh minute proved - so I can only call it a temporary lapse of reason.
Anyhow, Italy are the new world champions, and they have only one more to win for them to catch up with Brazil's record of five World Cup championships. I have always said that a World Cup-winning team justly deserves the title, and it is absurd to talk about Italy's luck in this championship. Whatever else it may do, luck will not pull you through all the seven matches that you play.
Therefore, I want to record my congratulations to the Italian players and fans. This is particularly so because the road to the final was far from easy, starting with the group stage, when the Azzurri had to wait until the last match was played to find out whether they would make it to the next round. Always, however, they showed great determination and, more importantly, had confidence in their abilities. France also deserve congratulations for being worthy competitors and for being able to hold off all comers. After all, it took a penalty shootout to finally get them down.
Personally speaking, as a Brazilian, it is very difficult to watch a final in which his country is not a part. We were the defending champions this time and I know perfectly well what the average Italian fan is feeling right now. I just hope that in four years time, we will be prepared to increase our advantage in terms of World Cup title wins. It wouldn't do to let Italy equal our record!
In terms of technique and tactics, the final displayed plenty of both. Obviously, nothing quite matches a final in terms of pressure and expectations, when every mistake is magnified a thousand times, so it is not always possible to stick to pre-decided set pieces and strategies. And technique takes even more of a backseat once the match is over, as the joy of winning and the misery of losing sweep all technical considerations out of your mind.
At least, that is what I have experienced on both the occasions that I was part of a winning team.
So the time has come to bid farewell to you. On the field as in my articles, I have tried to offer my best, though it was not to be a particularly happy tournament for us. I have tried to offer fans around the world an insight into what goes on in the mind of a player during a mega tournament like the World Cup, and I want to thank readers for allowing me the opportunity to share my thoughts with them. Now, Africa beckons!