A great modern day footballer, Zinedine Zidane was one of the driving forces behind France’s success in reaching the final of the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany. But his - and France’s - presence in the tournament was only assured after Zidane decided to make a remarkable comeback to international football.
Zidane announced his retirement from international football after France were knocked out of the European Championship by Greece in 2004. But a little over a year later, with France experiencing serious problems in qualifying for the 2006 World Cup, Zidane announced that he would come out of international retirement to help the team and he was reinstated as captain in August 2005.
Under Zidane’s leadership, France qualified for the World Cup in Germany, where in July 2006 they lost a penalty shoot-out in the final to Italy to finish as runners-up. Although Zidane was sent off in the final for headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi, he was awarded the Golden Ball as the best player in the tournament to mark his remarkable comeback.
It was Zidane’s second World Cup final —the final game of his career—and he scored in the 7th minute from the penalty spot with a chip shot that hit the crossbar before narrowly bouncing behind the goal line. It made him one of only four footballers to achieve the feat of scoring in two different World Cup finals, sharing the honour with Pelé, Paul Breitner and Vavá. The goal also made him one of the top goalscorers in World Cup final matches, with three goals, tied for first place with Pelé, Geoff Hurst and Vavá.
Zidane, a three-times FIFA World Footballer of the Year, played 108 times for France, and is one of only four players to make over 100 appearances, the others being Marcel Desailly, Didier Deschamps and Lilian Thuram.