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By ESPN Staff

ZZ top of the flops for French press

The French press conveyed their nation's incomprehension this morning as the country tried to understand why Zinedine Zidane head-butted Italy's Marco Materazzi in the World Cup final.

France's captain and the most iconic player of his generation bowed out of football in disgrace after driving his head into the chest of Materazzi in extra time, and the Italians eventually won on penalties.

Leading sports daily L'Equipe, whose front-page headline was 'eternal regrets', condemned Zidane's act of violence.

'Zinedine,' they queried, 'the most difficult thing this morning is not to try to explain why Les Bleus, your Bleus, lost the final of the World Cup which they could have won, but to explain to millions of children around the world how you could let yourself go to the point of charging at and head-butting Marco Materazzi.

'During the match in Berlin's Olympiastadion where so many pages of sports history were written, you were Ali, the genius of the ring, the greatest.

'But not Ali, nor (Jesse) Owens nor Pele, men that you were about to join among the most brilliant sports legends, ever broke the rules the way you did.

'Why also, weren't you on the pitch to console your friends Lilian Thuram and Fabien Barthez after the loss?

'You left them alone, just like the millions of kids who were inconsolable in front of their television set.

'Zinedine, you must be a very unhappy man this morning. You are also going to have to explain your gesture to your four sons.

'It was the last image you left as a football player, Zinedine. How could this happen to the man you are?'

Le Figaro called Zidane's head-butt 'odious'.

'The final of the World Cup against Italy symbolised Les Bleus' performance during the competition,' the paper added.

'First there was a shaky start, then an attractive performance before we suffered again a lack of offensive punch.

'Zidane's gesture was unacceptable and sanctioned properly.

'Thuram spoke about a real suffering and pain after the match. The captain must feel exactly the same way as his exit looked even more sad than the defeat.'

Broadsheet Liberation called the defeat 'cruel' while Le Parisien preferred to concentrate on Les Bleus' achievement of reaching the final, with the headline 'Merci' splashed across their front page.