Opening a sentence with ‘your mum’ will usually buy you a right hook in the playgrounds up and down this country. So one can only image the words Marco Materazzi muttered on the playing fields of the Olympiastadion in Germany last night as Zinedine Zidane jogged away. The reaction that ensued would have even been considered illegal in the rings of Sky Sports’ brutal new fighting showpiece; Cage Rage.
One hundred and 10 minutes into the final game of an illustrious career Zinedine Zidane launched his head, as if a battering ram, into the chest of Marco Materazzi, felling him in that fatal swoop. As Materazzi rolled on the turf in agony, the replays were beamed to our TV sets and for once you couldn’t accuse the Italians of putting on the theatrics. After discussion with the linesman and consultation from the fourth official, the referee had no option but to send Zidane off.
And with that the world said goodbye to what was undoubtedly the greatest no.10 of our generation. The man who had valiantly led France to lift the World Cup for the first time in ’98; The man who scored the greatest goal in European history before lifting the European cup for Real Madrid in ’02; The man who only 103 minutes earlier scored the cheekiest goal a World Cup final had ever seen; cut a sullen figure as he walked from the pitch and past the coveted trophy.
Down to 10 men, the French still showed more adventure than their opponents. However the deadlock failed to be broken and for only the second time in its history, as only an Italian team could manage, the World Cup final went to penalties. Once again in this intriguing final the crossbar came into play, denying David Trezeguet his penalty and awarding Italy the World Cup.
Just as in ’98 the headlines will belong to Zinedine Zidane but I wonder if they will ask what Materazzi’s inflammatory mutterings were?