Despite incident, Zidane wins Golden Ball

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

BERLIN -- France captain Zinedine Zidane, sent off for head-butting Marco Materazzi late in Sunday's World Cup final loss to Italy, won the Golden Ball award for the tournament's best player.

The results were released Monday morning in Berlin 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 and one that was widely criticized in France and abroad.

The French sports daily L'Equipe wrote: "This morning, Zinedine, what do we tell our children, and all those for whom you were the living role model for all times?"

FIFA, which reviews all red cards at the World Cup, would not comment on the specifics.

With the score locked 1-1 after 120 minutes, Italy won 5-3 in the penalty-kick shootout to collect its fourth World Cup title.

Zidane, 34, a former international player of the year and 1998 World Cup champion, announced last month that he was retiring from soccer after the tournament.

Voting for the 2006 Golden Ball closed at midnight Sunday. In previous tournaments, the ballot has closed at halftime in the final and the winner announced soon after the match.

Italy captain Cannavaro led a defense that conceded only two goals in the tournament: an own-goal against the United States and Zidane's penalty kick.

"I got my award, that's it right there," Cannavaro said, gesturing toward the World Cup trophy sitting on the table in front of him. "I'm extremely pleased with what I have."

Cannavaro played every minute of Italy's seven games.

Germany striker Miroslav Klose was the Golden Shoe winner for the tournament's leading scorer. He won with five goals.

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