After
64 games of football over 32 days, it all came to down to a penalty shoot-out,
which may give a result but hardly gives fans and players a feeling of justice.
But them’s the rules, and Italy came out ahead 5-3. The Azzuri won their fourth World
Cup, 24 years since their last stint as champions of the world.

The
result was sealed by Australia’s nemesis Fabio Grosso, who grabbed victory with
the Italians’ fifth penalty kick. The Italian media and fans have described the
match itself as “soffertissimo”, which apparently translates as “great suffering”.

“It’s been a match of intense
suffering but we’ve won it now, and everything’s great”, shouted waiter Carlo
Dilizio, 47, at Bibo’s Bar, in Rome. More than 150,000 Romans watched the match
on giant screens at the ancient Circus Maximus, while tourists were
apparently astounded by the eerie silence that settled over Rome during the
match as all eyes were glued to screens.

But
if you thought Lygon Street or Leichhardt were boisterous in the wake of the
Italian victory, check out www.cnn.com, and go
to the video link on the left hand side of the home page to see the Roman
reaction. We knew we should have bought shares in that flag company!

Meanwhile,
France is left wondering how to welcome home Zinedine Zidane, a legend of the game and the scorer of France’s only
goal before the penalty shootout, but red carded out of the game for a needless
headbutt in extra time.

Need an explanation? “I
have not seen the replays, but if it’s voluntary then
there’s nothing you can say”, French coach Raymond Domenech said.
“But it’s a shame. It’s sad. He [Materazzi] did a lot of acting and for
such a
big man, a gust of wind made him fall over.”

Commentator
Martin Tyler speculated that a racial comment may have come from
Materazzi, but
as yet no denial or confirmation of that view has come from either
camp. Expect more on this over the next
few days. Despite
the ignominy of finishing his career in the sin bin, Zidane still
managed to
earn one more record, becoming only the fourth player to score three
times in World Cup finals. That will be cold comfort for the
now-retired legend.

Meanwhile,
the celebrations in Italy are still just warming up.

Peter Fray

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