Section 1: What provoked Zidane?

By Paul Kennedy
Managing Editor
Soccer America

Just what did Marco Materazzi say or do, if anything, to provide France captain Zinedine Zidane to viciously head-butt the Italy defender and get sent off in Sunday's World Cup final?

"According to several very well informed sources from the world of football," the anti-racism group SOS Racism said in a statement, "it would seem that the Italian player Marco Materazzi called Zinedine Zidane a 'dirty terrorist.'"

Zidane, the son of Algerian immigrants, was shown a red card late in overtime, and Italy went on to win on penalties after the match was ended 1-1.

Zidane's teammates defended their captain.

"Italians always act like this," said striker David Trezeguet, who plays in Italy for Juventus. "It is a shame to say that, but when they feel they are being dominated they try to provoke you. FIFA and the referees only see the second act; they never look at why there is an incident."

"I accept when the adversary wins with honor, but that is not the case," said defender William Gallas. "People can't react like that, but he has been insulted -- when you play against people like that you want to kick their ass."

Not everyone in France defended Zidane, who remained silent about the incident.

"This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model for all times?" the sports daily L'Equipe wrote.

Zidane named World Cup's top player

Zidane didn't win the 1998 World Cup MVP award when he led France to its only World Cup title, but he won the Golden Ball award as the outstanding player of the 2006 World Cup in votes cast by the media before he was shown the red card.

Zidane received 2,012 votes, Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro finished second  with 1,977, and Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo was third with 715.

Zidane's successful penalty for France against Italy meant he became the fourth player to score three goals in the history of the showpiece final. He also scored from the penalty spot to defeat Portugal, 1-0, in the semifinals, and set up Thierry Henry for the winning goal against Brazil in the quarterfinals. Zidane also scored an insurance goal in the 3-1 win over Spain in the second round.

Germany's Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot as the top scorer with five goals; Italy's Gianluca Buffon won the Lev Yashin Award as the top goalie at the World Cup.

Brazil and Spain shared the fair play award. Portugal won the award as the "most entertaining team."

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