Disgraced Zidane wins Golden Ball award

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The Independent Football

Zinedine Zidane has been awarded the Golden Ball as the best player at the World Cup despite his sending off in the final last night.

The France legend, playing in his final match before retirement, was dismissed in extra time for butting Italy's Marco Materazzi.

The voting for the award was carried at half-time in the final, which France went on to lose on penalties.

Zidane, 34, topped a of poll journalists covering the event ahead with 2,012 points ahead of Italian pair Fabio Cannavaro (1,977) and Andrea Pirlo (715).

Zidane was disappointing in France's opening games and was suspended for their crucial final group match against Togo.

He returned to give match-winning performances against Spain, Brazil and Portugal and had hoped for a glorious career finale in Berlin.

That was on course to happen as he netted the penalty that gave France the lead but Italy responded to take the match to extra time.

Zidane had a great chance to win the game when he forced a fine save from Gianluigi Buffon with a header but the last memory of him on a field was him charging at Materazzi and headbutting him in his chest over a comment made by the defender.

Despite his indiscretion, he will be regarded as one of the game's greatest players having inspired France to success at the 1998 World Cup and Euro 2000.

* Zidane's fellow former World Cup winner Frank Leboeuf is at a loss to explain what made the France captain commit his shameful head-butt.

Leboeuf, part of the team alongside Zidane which won the World Cup on home soil in 1998, can still scarcely believe what he saw from his old colleague in Berlin.

"I cannot accept what he did," the former Chelsea defender said on BBC Radio 5 Live. "I think Materazzi said something very bad to him for him to react like that.

"But it doesn't matter what he said - you cannot agree with what he did. I feel very ashamed - because it is not the kind of thing that this team does."

* FIFA have insisted that video replays played no part in Zidane being sent off. The off-the-ball incident was missed by Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo and his linesmen, but was spotted by the fourth official Luis Medina Cantalejo from Spain.

France coach Raymond Domenech suggested that the fourth official only took action after seeing a video replay - something that is not permitted under the rules of the game.

But FIFA spokesman Andreas Herren told PA Sport: "The fourth referee saw the incident with his own eyes and told the referee and the assistant referee directly though their headsets."

FIFA say although the fifth official does have a TV monitor, he is not permitted to intervene, and the fourth official has no access to video replays.

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