So the Italians are now four-time World Champions.
Despite the fact that this final was determined by penalties for only the second time in World Cup history, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t an exciting match. And much of the plaudits for that must go to the French team.
The Italians reached the final on the basis of their much-talked-about defensive might, but France’s pacy attacking play were actually able to find a way into the danger area several times, and if not for some poor passing in the penalty box and some wasteful finishing, France may well have been able to snatch victory in regulation time.
This is not to say the Italians weren’t equal to the task. As predicted by pundits beforehand, the Italian midfield duo of Pirlo and Gattuso were imperious and were generally at the heart of much of Italy’s play. Totti, however, barely made an impact and was eventually substituted.
But the star of the show, for me, was Fabio Cannavaro – as he has been for the entire tournament. Easily the best defender of the World Cup by miles. There’s talk of him possibly moving to Real Madrid (with sick-note Jonathan Woodgate getting the boot), considering the likelihood of his current club Juventus being relegated following their role in the current Italian football scandal. If he did, he would probably be Real’s first decent signing in a long, long time.
Of course, this final also saw Zinedine Zidane end his footballing career. Unfortunately, he ended it in disgrace, with the most audacious and obvious of red card offences I have ever seen. I mean, I watched it again and again in this Youtube video (link courtesy of Kottke) and I still cannot even begin to fathom his reaction. In time, he will once again be remembered as being one of the game’s greatest players, but it is sad that, for the present time, all the world will talk about is this bizarre moment of madness.
In the meantime, the world celebrates the end of a month-long football fiesta. There weren’t that many goals and most matches were, frankly, boring. Refereeing decisions weren’t always up-to-par, and there is no doubt we’ll be hearing from FIFA about yet another rule-change in the coming months and years regarding this issue.
But in terms of the spirit of the competition, and the hosts’ organisation of the World Cup, there is no doubt the Germans have excelled themselves. Security was tight enough, and yet allowed millions of people to party and revel in an atmosphere of fun and togetherness. The German national team, meanwhile, turned in the best performances, which while sometimes lacking in the technique displayed by other illustrious teams like Argentina, made up for it with an abundance of passion and verve.
Great job, Germany – if you could only host this competition every time.
And so the greatest show on earth ends. Will the South Africans surpass expectations and put on an equally good – or better – show in 2010? One can only hope.
Images sourced from BBC Sport