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The headbutt that shocked the world

the result – Italy beat France in a penalty shoot-out – but for the incident in extra time which not only saw one of the world’s great players event off but also ended his star-studded career.

Even many years after the event, people continue to speculate as to why Zinedine Zidane decided to heat butt Italian defender Marco Materazzi.

Zidane had famously guided France to World Cup success In 1998, scoring two goals in the final against Brazil. Two years later he also won the European Championships with them, and he was widely recognised as one of the players of his generation.

However, after France failed to defend their European title in 2004, Zidane announced his retirement from international football.

Two years later, though, wit France struggling to qualify for the 2006 World Cup in Germany, he was coaxed ack and handed the captain’s armband again.

France duly qualified, with Zidane becoming the fourth French player to win 100 caps for his country.  

The team had a slow start to their World Cup final campaign and squeezed through the group phases, with Zidane forced sit out the third match due to suspension.

However, in the knock-out phases of the competition he came alight, scoring one and assisting another in the second round match and then setting-up the winner in the quarter-final against Brazil.

In the semi-final, France faced Portugal and it was Zidane who decided the match for them from the penalty spot.

Zidane then became only the fourth man in history to score in two World Cup finals when he put France ahead on 7 minutes in Berlin, again from the penalty spot, executing a Panenka” which hit the crossbar before bouncing over the line.

Materazzi headed in an equaliser and the teams remained locked together heading into extra time.

Zidane then had a chance to win the match with a header, but it was saved by goalkeeper Gianluca Buffon.

But with the match heading towards penalties, Zidane and Materazzi brushed passed each other, and words were exchanged,. Zidane who was running back suddenly checked, ran forward, and head-butted the Italian in the chest.

Although initially missed by the referee, the officials soon picked up on what had happened and Zidane became the fourth man to be sent ff in a World Cup final.

Deprived of their best spot kick taker, France went on to lose the subsequent penalty shoot-out.

Zidane, who had already decided to retire the following season accelerated the move and ended his paying career on the spot. The next day he was awarded the Golden Ball for the Player of the Tournament.

Widely castigated at the time for his actions, Zidane initially refused to explain himself.

Gradually, though in a series of interviews with both players, the truth emerged. Materazzi had insulted Zidane’s sister. Provoking the reaction. Zidane later said he would rather die than apologise to the defender for what he had done.

Materazzi meanwhile was unrepentant and has always felt that the ends justified the means.

The headbutt was later immortalised in bronze in the form of a five-meter statue which was displayed in Paris.

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