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They came, they played, they conquered
When Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro stood on the podium holding the World Cup trophy, he sent a stark reminder to his team’s critics, who in the runup to the World Cup had written them off as being overly defensive and somewhat boring, that they had what it takes to be worthy champions.
In video: Italians celebrate their victory. (56k)

Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (second from left) holds the trophy with Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri (left), Italian coach Marcello Lippi (right) and captain Fabio Cannavaro in Berlin after Italy won the World Cup. Italian President Giorgio Napolitano (second from left) holds the trophy with Sports Minister Giovanna Melandri (left), Italian coach Marcello Lippi (right) and captain Fabio Cannavaro in Berlin after Italy won the World Cup. — AFP photo

Zidane wins Golden Ball
Berlin, July 10
France captain Zinedine Zidane, sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi late in yesterday’s World Cup final loss to Italy, won the Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player.







EARLIER STORIES


Zizou apologises to team-mates

Brazil, Spain share Fair Play Award
Berlin, July 10
There may have been a record 28 red cards in the World Cup, but two teams managed to keep their slate largely clean and walked away with the FIFA Fair Play Award 2006.

Buffon bags best goalie award
Berlin, July 10
Italian shotstopper Gianluigi Buffon has won the coveted Lev Yashin Award, given to the best goalkeeper at the World Cup.

World Cup Fact File

Harbhajan Singh addresses a press conference in Jalandhar on Monday. Spinners have silenced critics: Harbhajan 
Jalandhar, July 10
“The spinners were dominant in the Test series against the West Indies. So, it feels nice to perform well abroad,” said Harbhajan Singh here today. Back in Jalandhar after playing a decisive role in the Test series victory, Harbhajan said India had learnt useful lessons about the wickets and conditions that would help them in the preparation of the upcoming World Cup next year.

Harbhajan Singh addresses a press conference in Jalandhar on Monday. —  Tribune photo by Pawan Sharma

Yan, Zheng make history
London, July 10
Zheng Jie and Yan Zi captured China’s first Wimbledon title yesterday when they beat Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the women’s doubles final.

HPCA for academies at district level


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They came, they played, they conquered
Pankaj Vasudeva

When Italian captain Fabio Cannavaro stood on the podium holding the World Cup trophy, he sent a stark reminder to his team’s critics, who in the runup to the World Cup had written them off as being overly defensive and somewhat boring, that they had what it takes to be worthy champions.

Unfancied Italians came into the World Cup without a star lineup, with most of the players coming through from local clubs. They did not have charismatic players, unlike most of their opponents. Yet they came, played and clinched their fourth World Cup.

And victory did not come easy to them. They brought down the Czech Republic and Germany en route to the final, before their final showdown with France, the team that had beaten them in World Cup ’98 quarterfinal and Euro 2000 final.

History was against the Azzurri when it came to penalty shootouts. They came into the World Cup with a 0-3 record in shootouts. They were eliminated on penalty kicks for the first time in the semifinal of Italia ’90 by Argentina. That loss had hurt them more as they were defeated on home soil.

Their biggest setback came in the USA ’94 final against the on-song Brazil, where a miss from the spot by blue-eyed boy Roberto Baggio, which followed Daniele Massaro’s unsuccessful kick, prevented Italy from laying their hands on the trophy for the fourth time.

The Italians completed an unenviable hat-trick of unceremonious exits by losing to France in the quarterfinal, breaking millions of Italian hearts and donning the unofficial tag of shootout “chokers”.

The team that takes pride in its formidable defence had to pay a heavy price for their overly defensive tactics in the Euro 2000 final — their last best outing before this World Cup — against France. In spite of taking an early 1-0 lead, the Italians became so overprotective of their half that they conceded a goal in the dying minutes of the second half through substitute Sylvain Wiltord.

The French made the most of taking the game into the extra time by driving home a winner in the shape of another substitute, David Trezeguet. Trezeguet, who became an overnight darling of France six years ago, emerged as the lone culprit in the last night’s match by narrowly missing his spot kick.

The 2006 World Cup did not start off well, at least off the field, for the Azzurri. Four of their Serie A clubs were mired in a match-fixing scandal, which threatens to relegate the clubs to the third division. A majority of players in the Italian roster came from these clubs. And to top it all, the news of one of their former national players attempting suicide came in just before their quarter-final match. However, the Azzurri showed tenacity and came out on top, beating Ukraine 3-0.

The highlight, however, remained the fact that 12 goals came from 10 Italian players during the tournament. They gelled as a unit, setting aside individual interests, a thing that was lacking in most other teams. They also made up for their USA ’94 loss in the penalty shootout and showed great character by driving in all five penalty kicks.

In spite of the team effort, some individual talents shone in the form of Gianluigi Buffon in the goal, Fabio Cannavaro and Fabio Grosso in defence, Gennaro Gattuso, Gianluca Zambrotta and Andrea Pirlo in midfield, and Luca Toni in attack. But the player who stole the glory in the final turned out to be a defender — Marco Materazzi — who earned his first cap of the cup by replacing star defender Alessandro Nesta. He remained in the thick of action right from the outset — first conceded a penalty, then scored with a stinging header, got involved in the head-butting incident of Zinedine Zidane and finally scored a crucial penalty kick.

Their coach Marcello Lippi kept his cool and made crucial changes besides masterminding the Italian game plan. He would be most remembered for his crucial extra-time substitution of two forwards in the cliffhanger against Germany, which ultimately paid off, as Italy scored two goals in two minutes to book a berth in the final.

Now with glory on their side and experience to back them up, these rising stars certainly have a job at hand to keep the Italian flag flying high. The title means much more to this football-crazy nation, as their team beat all odds and emerged champions.

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Zidane wins Golden Ball

Berlin, July 10
France captain Zinedine Zidane, sent off for headbutting Marco Materazzi late in yesterday’s World Cup final loss to Italy, won the Golden Ball award for the tournament’s best player.

The results were released here this morning by FIFA.

Zidane polled 2,012 points in the vote by journalists covering the tournament, beating Italians Fabio Cannavaro (1,977 points) and Andrea Pirlo (715 points) in the ballot.

Zidane, who put France ahead with a penalty kick in the opening minutes, was given a red card after slamming his head into Materazzi’s chest during the tense second period of extra time.

It was his last act as a professional player.

The French missed Zidane’s prowess in the penalty shootout, which Italy calmly won to collect their fourth World Cup title.

Zidane, a former International Player of the Year and 1998 World Cup champion, announced last month that he was retiring from football after the tournament.

German goalkeeper Oliver Kahn won the Golden Ball in 2002. Other previous winners were Brazilians Ronaldo (1998) and Romario (1994), Italy’s Salvatore Schillaci (1990) and Argentine great Diego Maradona (1986).

Klose claims Golden Shoe

Miroslav KloseGerman striker Miroslav Klose won the Golden Shoe for the tournament’s leading scorer (five goals). Klose scored five goals, two clear of eight players on three goals. The 28-year-old, who also netted five times in the 2002 finals, scored twice against both Costa Rica and Ecuador in group games and headed the equaliser in the quarterfinal against Argentina, which the hosts won in a penalty shootout.

His five goals are the lowest winning haul since the 1962 World Cup in Chile when six players scored four times. Ronaldo won the award in 2002 with eight goals. — AP, Reuters

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Zizou apologises to team-mates

Berlin, July 10
“Sorry my teammates, I let you down”. A repentant Zinedine Zidane apologised to his Les Bleus team-mates after his headbutt earned him the marching order in the 111th minute and virtually put paid to the prospect of another French triumph in the World Cup final here yesterday.

One of his team-mates, Jean-Alain Boumsong, revealed to Sky Sports News that Zidane apologised to his fellow players for a moment of madness which shamed him and cost his team the title.

When asked whether Zidane had apologised, Boumsong said, “Yes, yes of course. He is very disappointed to have made that fault.” — UNI

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Brazil, Spain share Fair Play Award

Berlin, July 10
There may have been a record 28 red cards in the World Cup, but two teams managed to keep their slate largely clean and walked away with the FIFA Fair Play Award 2006.

Brazil and Spain were chosen for the award by the FIFA Technical Study Group after picking up a total of 886 points out of 1,000.

The award is given to the team with the best record of fair play, sportsmanship and good conduct both on and off the pitch, according to a points system and criteria established by the FIFA Committee for Ethics and Fair Play.

Every single game at the tournament is evaluated according to these criteria, but only teams which reach the round of 16 are considered eligible for the prize.

The squads will share the prestigious trophy and also receive medals for each member of its playing and coaching staff, a certificate, and a voucher for $ 50,000 worth of sporting material to be used in youth development.

The evaluation is carried out according to six criteria which place emphasis on the positive rather than the negative aspects of a team’s performance.

The number of cards a team receives is the only way that points can be deducted. The other criteria taken into consideration are: positive play, respect for opponents, respect for officials, behaviour of the coaching staff and behaviour of supporters.

For Brazil it is the third time that they have won this award.

While the Brazilians may have shown only rare glimpses of their renowned “jogo bonito” here on German soil, they cannot be accused of not playing fair. Leading by example was Canarinho defender Lucio, who went more than four games without conceding a single free kick. — PTI

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Buffon bags best goalie award

Berlin, July 10
Italian shotstopper Gianluigi Buffon has won the coveted Lev Yashin Award, given to the best goalkeeper at the World Cup.

The Juventus star became a worthy successor to Belgium’s legendary Michel Preud Homme, French goalkeeper Fabien Barthez and Germany’s Oliver Kahn, winners of the award in 1994, 1998 and 2002, respectively.

Germany 2006 saw Buffon, 28, beaten only by an own goal and a penalty shot by Zidane Zidane in the thrilling final yesterday. Otherwise, he was simply unbeatable in seven games.

Buffon has been singled out as a potential all-time great ever since making his Serie A debut at tender age of 17 years and nine months.

It is difficult to find any chinks in Buffon’s armour: the Italian star seems to possess the full range of qualities needed to be a complete No. 1.

The former Parma goalie wasted no time in making his mark at Germany 2006. Buffon’s acrobatics in his side’s opening game against Ghana were ample proof of his full recovery from the potentially career-threatening shoulder injury suffered at the beginning of the 2005-06 season. — PTI

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World Cup Fact File

Goals: 147 in 64 matches at an average of 2.30 per match. (2002: 161 at an average of 2.52)

Top scorer: Miroslav Klose (Germany), 5 goals

Fastest goal: Carlos Gamarra (Paraguay), 4th minute (own goal against England)

Best attack: Germany (14 goals)

Best defence: Switzerland became the first team to bow out after not conceding a single goal in the group stage or their second-round match against Ukraine, who won on penalties. Italy’s two goals conceded was the joint lowest by a title winner along with France in 1998.

Own goals: 4

Penalties: 16

Yellow cards: 305

Red cards: 28 (The second-round game between Portugal and the Netherlands saw a record 16 yellow and four red cards)

Spectators: 3.367 million (average 52,609 per match) — AFP

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Spinners have silenced critics: Harbhajan
Rubinder Gill
Tribune News Service

Jalandhar, July 10
“The spinners were dominant in the Test series against the West Indies. So, it feels nice to perform well abroad,” said Harbhajan Singh here today.

Back in Jalandhar after playing a decisive role in the Test series victory, Harbhajan said India had learnt useful lessons about the wickets and conditions that would help them in the preparation of the upcoming World Cup next year.

Talking to mediapersons at the Hansraj Stadium, Harbhajan refused to comment on his exclusion from the first two Tests, saying it was the team management’s decision, which he respected fully.

He is in the city to spend time with his family before the team gets together for the conditioning camp on July 25. It would be followed by another camp to prepare the players for the Sri Lanka tour next month.

When asked about the World Cup, Harbhajan said, “The tour has helped us learn about the wickets and what kind of totals we would need to put up in particular grounds. The pitches are slow and would definitely help the spinners. The ball there tends to keep low, particularly in the second innings, so spinners would play a definite role.”

“The wickets were more like in Asia, particularly India and Sri Lanka.” This, of course, was an unwitting backing of the West Indian captain Brian Lara, who throughout the series kept asking curators and the West Indian management for faster and greener pitches. Genuine unstinted praise of Lara soon followed with the Turbanator giving the credit of the one-day series win to his captaincy.

“It shifted the balance in the one-day series. His field placing and bowling changes brought the whole team together.”

The off-spinner was disappointed at the loss in one-dayers, specially after the winning start. “We had a good rhythm to start with, but lost the momentum with that close defeat in the second match. They got better while our rhythm was broken.”

Brushing aside the controversy about his sitting out the second Test, Harbhajan said he had a groin strain, so the team management thought he should not be played. “Had I played in that Test it could have led to a full injury. So, it was decided that I should rest.”

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Yan, Zheng make history

London, July 10
Zheng Jie and Yan Zi captured China’s first Wimbledon title yesterday when they beat Virginia Ruano Pascual and Paola Suarez 6-3, 3-6, 6-2 in the women’s doubles final.

The fourth-seeded pair claimed their second major title of the year after winning the country’s first Grand Slam trophy at the Australian Open in January.

Their win capped a successful run for the world’s most populous nation at the grasscourt championships after Li Na had made her mark in the women’s singles draw earlier in the week.

Li was the first Chinese player to reach the singles quarterfinals at a Grand Slam event, where her run was ended by Belgian Kim Clijsters.

Since Li Ting and Sun Tiantian’s victory in the women’s doubles at the 2004 Athens Olympics, China has made big strides in women’s tennis.

The players have benefited from their federation’s push to produce world-class competitors in time for the 2008 Beijing Games and yesterday’s win proved China could achieve its target of landing an Olympic gold in tennis in two years’ time.

Zheng and Yan’s win also prevented Ruano Pascual and Suarez from completing a career doubles Grand Slam. — Reuters

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HPCA for academies at district level
Tribune News Service

Dharamsala, July 10
The special general house of the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association (HPCA) here yesterday resolved to set up cricket academies at the district level and made it compulsory for players to get themselves registered with district associations. It was also decided that the construction of the stadium at Dharamsala, which would include an indoor practice area, would be completed by May, 2007.

Addressing a press conference, Mr Anurag Thakur, HPCA president, said the general house recommended to the finance committee of the association to make provision of Rs 2 lakh for making cricket grounds available at district levels.

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