Sunday, July 09, 2006

To the very end of his career, Zinedine Zidane could dictate the flow of play with rare skill and elegant control of the ball.

Italy and France will play extra time in their soccer World Cup final, which was tied 1-1 after 90 minutes in Berlin. They will have two periods of 15 minutes and, if the score remains locked, face a penalty shootout.

Zinedine Zidane, playing in his final game, scored from a penalty kick in the seventh minute before Marco Materazzi made it 1-1 from a 19th-minute header in the Olympic stadium.

France has won its past four World Cup matches that have gone to extra time and last lost at a major international tournament after 120 minutes in the semifinal of the 1996 European Championship.

It beat Italy in a penalty shootout in the 1998 World Cup quarterfinal and defeated the same opposition in the final of Euro 2000 on a goal by David Trezeguet as the game went to sudden death.

The World Cup final last had extra time 12 years ago, when Italy lost in a penalty shootout to Brazil.

Italy, which allowed one goal before the final, is seeking a European record fourth title, while France is trying for a second success after Zidane led the team to victory in 1998 with two goals in the final. Zidane, 34, is quitting after the match.

Zidane became the fourth player to score in two finals after the referee ruled Florent Malouda was fouled by Materazzi. The midfielder took two paces, chipped his shot onto the underside of the crossbar, and the ball crossed the line before bouncing out.

With France's defense struggling to defend corners, Materazzi rose to head Andrea Pirlo's kick into the net and make it 1-1 after 19 minutes. Italy hit the crossbar with a Luca Toni header from another Pirlo corner. It's the first final since 1986 in which both teams have scored.

The game opened up in the second half, with France making most of the chances as Italy's defense toiled to cope with the pace and skill of Thierry Henry.

The France striker ran through the defense only to shoot weakly at Gianluigi Buffon, he beat three defenders before crossing to get a corner, and then forced Buffon into a left- handed save with a low shot after 63 minutes.

With Zidane linking play between Henry, Malouda and Frank Ribery, the French looked to be getting on top only for Italy to create several scoring chances.

Toni was ruled offside when he headed a Pirlo free kick into the net. Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez then dived to his left to gather the striker's low shot.

France midfielder Patrick Vieira left the field with a hamstring injury, and Italy coach Marcello Lippi replaced Francesco Totti and Simone Perrotta with Vincenzo Iaquinta and Daniele de Rossi. Pirlo curled a 32-yard free kick wide of the post in the 77th minute. Alessandro del Piero came on in the 87th minute to make it three strikers on the Italian team.

The Italians won the sport's biggest prize in 1934, 1938 and 1982. Brazil leads the all-time list with five victories.

Italy scored twice in the last two minutes of extra time against Germany to advance to its sixth World Cup final and first since losing the shootout to Brazil in 1994. France beat Portugal 1-0, also on a Zidane penalty, to reach its second final.

More than 1 billion television viewers are watching the game, with former U.S. President Bill Clinton and French President Jacques Chirac among the 69,000 crowd in the stadium.

Lippi's team has shrugged off a match-fixing scandal back home to maintain Italy's record of reaching the final every 12 years since 1970. Juventus and AC Milan, Italy's most successful soccer clubs, are among four teams accused of corruption in the country's biggest sports scandal in 25 years.


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