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Italy lifted the World Cup for the fourth time last Sunday in Berlin, Germany after beating France 5-3 on penalties in the final.

When Fabio Cannavaro accepted the trophy on behalf of the Italians it momentarily soothed a team dogged by ongoing investigations into match fixing scandals in their local league Serie A.{{more}}

The “Azzurri” as they are nicknamed had to come from behind to level the score after France’s captain Zinedine Zidane had scored from the penalty spot in the 7th minute.

Marco Materazzi evened the proceedings in the 19th minute with a well-taken header.

He was to become one of the key elements of the match. Materazzi was one of the five players who successfully netted his penalty after regulation and extra time saw the score tied at 1-1.

It was also Materazzi at the receiving end of a head butt from Zidane resulting in his sending off in the 10th minute of the second period of extra time.

France which won the 1998 World Cup as host went into the penalty kicks without three of their best players, Zidane, Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry. Vieira and Henry were substituted.

France’s David Trezeguet charged with the second penalty missed from the spot, and when Fabio Grosso hit Italy’s fifth; it reversed their fortunes in penalty kicks at world cup finals.

De Rossi, Pirlo and Del Piero were the other penalty takers for the champions, with Wiltord, Abidal and Sagnol scoring from the spot for France.

Italy exited the world cup on penalties on three previous occasions. As host in 1990, they lost to Argentina, to Brazil in the decider in 1994 in the USA and to France in the quarter in 1998.

France looked more purposeful in the latter stages of regulation time, could have been spared the agony of the penalty shoot out.

Zidane’s header in the 13th minute of the first period of extra time was magnificently tipped over the bar by Italian goal keeper Gianluigi Buffon.

Zidane who came out of retirement to help the French cause was voted player of the tournament receiving the Golden Ball Award.

One of the world’s best players, Zidane goes back into retirement having taken his country to their second final; the most recent which seemed an unlikely possibility during the group stages.

For the Italians, it was glory for their football set- up as they were one of the two finalists which had a roster of players playing in their home league. Saudi Arabia was the other team.

The 2006 host Germany took the third spot in Saturday beating Portugal 3-1.Germany’s Miroslav Klose received the Golden boots Award for scoring the most goals in the final, 5.

As the Eighteenth World Cup has ended, the next stop-over will be in South Africa in 2010. That continent will host football’s showpiece for the first time.