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Surreal World
GRANT WAHL
July 17, 2006
In a mad, mad final match, Italy rode its stalwart defense to a fourth championship, while the greatest player of his generation left the field in infamy after a shocking moment of mindless rage
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July 17, 2006

Surreal World

In a mad, mad final match, Italy rode its stalwart defense to a fourth championship, while the greatest player of his generation left the field in infamy after a shocking moment of mindless rage

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Do you know why my heart beats?

I have seen Cannavaro!

I have seen Cannavaro!

Oh, Mama! I fell in love!

More than any other player, Cannavaro kept his team even-keeled during one of the most turbulent periods in the history of Italian soccer. He's one of five Azzurri who play for Juventus, the Serie A champion that was facing a likely demotion to the minor leagues this week as the result of a match-fixing scandal involving the club's former general manager. Meanwhile, onetime Italy teammate Gianluca Pessotto, now a director at Juventus, lay in a hospital bed after he had leaped from a second-story window in an apparent suicide attempt. As Gianluigi (Gigi) Buffon, the Azzurri's nonpareil goalkeeper, said on Sunday night, "I just hope everyone can celebrate and be happy for a little while before we get back to our everyday problems."

Ultimately, it was Buffon and the Italian defense that won the World Cup-with help from the crossbar that denied France's David Trezeguet in the shootout. Before the final, Materazzi spoke prophetically of how Italy would stop the rampaging Zidane. "We have people who can mark Zizou all over the field, and we've got Gattuso, who's in incredible form," said the Matrix. "If he were any more up for it, he'd destroy everything."

Perhaps, but nobody figured Zidane would destroy himself in the most public venue imaginable. Moments after his red card, as he trudged toward the stadium tunnel and into a life beyond soccer, Zidane passed the World Cup trophy on its elaborate pedestal. Eight years ago, on a brilliant night in Paris, he raised the 11-pound gold bauble and kissed it before an enchanted nation. Now Zidane didn't acknowledge the trophy, much less touch it. Good thing. He didn't deserve to.

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