To a man, the French were impressive in the 2006 World Cup final. Their possession play, attacking flair and speed down the flanks would have overwhelmed any other defence in Germany, and it is a tribute to the Italians that they did not let through a legitimate goal in face of France’s best attacking performance in the World Cup.
But the Italians withstood the pressure, and this side has the unique distinction of winning the World Cup without letting an opponent score from open play (Zaccardo was to blame for the own goal in the group stages against USA, and Zidane scored off a penalty).
But the real downer is that despite the French team playing so well in the second half (Domenech wins the award for one of the best half-time talks, right up there with Benitez in the Champions League final last year), their first half was mired by diving (not so much that you would start looking at the team sheet to see if Ronaldo was playing, but still enough to leave a bad taste in the mouth).
You can watch the video below, and download it as well using the link below the vid (it’s a bit big though). The downloaded file will have a .flv extension and you’ll need an FLV player to watch it – I recommend using VLC Media Player (something that you should be using for your video needs anyways)
Italy equalised in the next 12 minutes, Zidane dove a couple of times (or fell down too easily) and the French had an indifferent first half. But the second half was much faster and much better from the French as they sieged the Italians…only to not get through thanks to Cannavaro, Materazzi and Gattuso, and when all else failed, Buffon.
One thing to note was that Henry in both halves and Malouda and Ribery in the second half all managed to shake off defenders and kept running with the ball. Seeing Henry dismiss the opposition players like that (Totti I understand, but Gattuso?) made me remember that Henry is a pretty darn strong player, and it raised the question again as to why he had gone down so easily in those earlier matches…
Clearly, when the top players sniff a chance, they make sure they stay on their feet and see it through. If they can do that half the time, why not do it all the time?