By Victor Martinez, 17, Daniel Murphy Catholic HS
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This year’s World Cup final between European powerhouses Italy and France was one of the most exciting ever. It was a stunning championship match that featured a back and forth attack between Italy and France, the expulsion of one of the best players (Zinadine Zidane) in this Cup,  and a crazy nail-biting ending. Italy beat France on penalty shots. 

During the penalty shots everyone at my house was glued to the screen and screamed like crazy when a shot went in. We were all holding our hands together each time France came up and prayed they would miss. When they did miss, we went wild. We jumped around like nuts in my house, even my dad was yelling. Then as the next Italy shots came, we were all nervous that they would miss, but they scored every time! We jumped around like crazy for a few minutes and then came all the calls from friends and family. We had been worried because Italy had lost in the 1994 final against Brazil in penalty shots, and France had been very successful in penalty shots. But they were without their best shooter, Zidane.

Over 120 minutes, counting overtime, Italy showed how to play soccer at a world-class level. Midfielders Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso helped Italy control possession 55 percent of the time compared to just 45 percent for France, and if a team cannot control the midfield, half the game is lost. Additionally, the incredible defensive plays of Fabio Cannavaro and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon kept Zinadine Zidane and the French offense at bay allowing them to score only on a penalty shot. This is exactly the way I expected Italy to play, they were the most powerful defensive team coming into the Cup, with a style of play that lullabies opponents to sleep until they strike hard. That’s the Italian way of winning the Cup.
On the other hand, France walked off the field on a low note, especially for the retiring Zidane, who after brutally headbutting Italian defender Marco Materazzi, was red-carded, (thrown out from the game much like when you receive six fouls in basketball). So he was unable to participate in the penalty shots at the end of the game. This meant that no Zidane, the best player on the French team, and the person named the best player in the Cup. France had been attacking and attacking, but this broke the team, as Zidane was the life and spirit of the team throughout the Cup. Zidane ended his glorious carrier in soccer in disgrace and dismay when he was on the level of such soccer heroes as Pelé and Maradona.

At the beginning of the game, on a very debatable call, France received a penalty shot for a foul and scored at about the sixth minute. French forward Thierry Henry dove even though he wasn’t touched. Players dove throughout the Cup to earn free kicks even when there was no foul on the play. And in this case the referee still called a foul and awarded a penalty shot for France. Italy soon came back to score and tie the game. As the game progressed both sides fought viciously to score once more, but toward overtime both teams seemed to be getting tired. The most incredible play was by Gianluigi Buffon, the Italian goalkeeper. In overtime, Zidane headed a centering pass right toward the goal in what seemed a flawless play, but Buffon came out of nowhere and hit the ball out with his fist. I was jumping and screaming when this happened. I am an Italy fan, and this was the key of the game. The same thing happened in the Germany-Italy game, when Buffon made a killer save in overtime and then Italy took over the game and won it in the last two minutes of overtime.

Finally came the tensest part of the game, penalty shots to finish the game and win the Cup. These moments are so incredibly tense for players because one miss can make it or break it for a team. Thankfully Italy won.

This was a glorious moment for Italy, which had not won a World Cup title since 1982. The people went wild in Italy, as could be seen in Circus Maximus where they showed the game on a large screen. People watching the game were jumping on the video cameras that were recording them, lighting flares, screaming like nuts. I know that if Mexico had won, it would have been a party to last all night not only at my house, but all over Mexico. Winning a World Cup is really important and gives the winning country the biggest pride in the world; the team really is the champion of the world.

Sadly, it was a poor ending for a great career like Zidane’s. He was the leader of the French team and he led them to the final during this, his final year. The faces of the French fans and players, and especially their head coach Raymond Domenech were priceless. Some cried, while others laid on the ground. Zidane was nowhere to be seen, and the Italian players danced without shorts with others singing. This was a great day for Italian soccer. They gave up only two goals during the World Cup in gameplay, one was an own goal against the United States and the other on a penalty shot in this game. Azzurris Azzurris! Italy, Champions of the World!

Click here to read Victor’s World Cup preview