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Italy Beats France in World Cup Championship

Italy is the 2006 World Cup football champion after defeating France in a penalty kick shootout, 5-3.

They played with a special gold colored ball in this final and Italian goal keeper Gianluigi Buffon wore a gold colored jersey and shorts. And it is Italy that is going home from Germany with the gold World Cup trophy.

The beginning of the championship match did not start out well for Italy. Marco Materazzi fouled French midfielder Florent Malouda in the box, giving France a penalty kick in the seventh minute. Star midfielder Zinedine Zidane took the kick, but he struck the ball rather softly. It hit under the crossbar, then barely bounced down over the line for a goal.

Italy got the equalizer 12 minutes later as Materazzi scored on a diving header off a corner kick.

Neither team was able to find the net through the rest of the 90 minutes of regulation or 30 minutes of extra time. France nearly scored in the 114th minute, but Buffon jumped high with an outstretched hand to knock a Zidane header over the bar.

Some six minutes later, Zidane uncharacteristically head-butted Materazzi in the chest and was expelled. It was a puzzling way for the three-time world footballer of the year to end his international career, as he had already announced he was retiring after this World Cup.

His coach, Raymond Domenech said Zidane's expulsion was significant.

"We can say that Zidane being sent off was a key element of the game," he noted, " because especially in the extra time, the Italian team was obviously waiting for the penalty shootout.

And that's what was needed to settle this World Cup final. The Italians do not have a good history in shootouts. Notably, they lost the 1994 World Cup final in the United States to Brazil in a shootout, and lost a quarterfinal shootout to World Cup host and eventual champion France in 1998.

But this was their night, as the Italians took the first kick from the spot and made all five.

David Trezeguet missed the second attempt for France when his shot hit off the top right side of the crossbar. With the Italians converting all of their penalties, there was no reason for the French to take their last one, so the Italians prevailed, 5-3.

Italian coach Marcelo Lippi said he was proud of his players in this World Cup, and especially in the championship win over France.

"We legitimized the victory by taking the penalties with great precision and great clarity," he said.

With the 5-3 shootout victory, Italy is now a four-time World Cup champion. Only Brazil has more world football titles with five.