World Cup’s 101 Most Memorable Moments: Zidane headbutts Materazzi

Editor’s note: Each day between now and the kickoff of the first match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup on Nov. 20, we’ll unveil a different memory from World Cup history. The countdown from 101 continues with Zidane’s headbutt.

For anyone under 40, Zinedine Zidane’s moment of madness in the 2006 final is surely their most memorable World Cup moment by a considerable distance.

What’s so crazy about the French legend’s spectacular, out-of-nowhere headbutt into the chest of Italian defender Marco Materazzi is when it happened: with the score tied at one of extra time of the decisive match and the title on the line.

But it was more than that. Zidane was unstoppable at the World Cup. At 34, he had announced before the tournament that he’d retire after it, and he played every game as though it were his last. It was Zidane who had given Les Bleus a first half lead from the penalty spot with an audacious chip that fooled Azzurri backstop Gianluigi Buffon, the best goalkeeper in the world at the time. 

Materazzi knew what Zidane was capable of. Before the start of the additional 30 minutes, Buffon and Italy coach Marcelo Lippi implored the defender to mark “Zizou” more closely. Depending on who you believe, Materazzi actually apologized to Zidane for tugging on his jersey, explaining that he couldn’t afford to give him an inch. The war of words had begun.

France’s No. 10 responded that if he wanted it, he’d give Materazzi his shirt after the game. When Materazzi responded with a juvenile off-color remark about Zidane’s sister — the Italian claimed afterward that he didn’t know if he even had a sister — Zidane lowered the boom.

He was sent off, walking past the trophy on the way to the dressing room. Stunned France’s momentum evaporated, and Italy went on to win the ensuing penalty shootout and their fourth World Cup.

The Headbutt

The Headbutt

Zidane headbutted Materazzi for an off-color remark about the French star’s sister.

Doug McIntyre is a soccer writer for FOX Sports. Before joining FOX Sports in 2021, he was a staff writer with ESPN and Yahoo Sports and he has covered United States men’s and women’s national teams at multiple FIFA World Cups. Follow him on Twitter @ByDougMcIntyre.

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