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By ESPN Staff
Jul 9, 2006

Domenech 'understands' Zidane blowing his top

BERLIN, July 9 (Reuters) - France coach Raymond Domenech said he understood key man Zinedine Zidane's loss of control which led to his dramatic sending-off before their World Cup final defeat on penalties by Italy on Sunday.

The French captain, who was playing his final competitive match at 34, opened the scoring but lost his cool in extra time, butted Marco Materazzi in the chest and was sent off with the score at 1-1 with around 10 minutes to play.

'There a moments, when you take blows ... I'm not saying I'm excusing it but I can understand,' Domenech told reporters. 'It was too bad, a totally useless gesture. We regret it and he also regrets it.'

Domenech confirmed that the referee had not seen the Zidane incident and relied on the fourth official to tell him what had happened.

The departure of their talisman and playmaker cost the French dearly as they lost momentum and their best penalty-taker. They lost the shootout 5-3, giving Italy their fourth title.

'We missed Zinedine Zidane a lot in the last 10 minutes. His absence weighed heavily on the match,' Domenech told reporters.

'Yes, we can say that Zidane being sent off was the killing moment of the game. Especially in extra time -- the Italian team were obviously waiting for the penalty shootout.'

Domenech was asked if he thought Materazzi had goaded Zidane into the assault.

'I don't know. I think Materazzi was perhaps involved. Something must have happened,' he said.

'I don't think Zidane decided out of the blue to react in such a way that he was sent off.'

The French coach continued: 'We can only be disappointed, not by our run but by the final match and the way it ended. Really, from the game we played, we would have deserved to win.

'I've said it from the start, only victory is pretty. There will always be something missing. You can say what we did wasn't bad but it's Italy who are the champions.'

French striker Thierry Henry told reporters: 'They played quite well in the first half but then we played well in the second. That's the way it is.

'We are sad -- everyone is really sad. We were so close to winning a second World Cup but we didn't do it.'

David Trezeguet, who replaced Henry but missed in the shootout, added: 'Penalties are part of the game and I was prepared to take the responsibility. We had a very good World Cup but in the end the whole thing came down to the penalties.'

France's 1998 World Cup-winning coach Aime Jacquet told Canal Plus TV: 'A penalty shootout is always a lottery. I'm deeply disappointed because I was expecting a goal for France at any moment. Zizou's sending off was a terrible moment.

'They gave it all they had, physically and mentally. Maybe he (Zidane) was provoked. It's awful to see him leave that way because I sincerely believed he would lift that trophy.'