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By ESPN Staff
Jul 10, 2006

Zidane wins Golden Ball award

BERLIN (AP) -- France captain Zinedine Zidane, sent off for head-butting Marco Materazzi late in Sunday's World Cup final loss to Italy, won the Golden Ball award for the tournament's best player.

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The results were released Monday morning in Berlin by FIFA.

Zidane polled 2012 points in the vote by journalists covering the tournament, beating Italians Fabio Cannavaro (1977 points) and Andrea Pirlo (715 points) in the ballot.

Zidane, who put France ahead with a penalty kick in the opening minutes, was given a red card after slamming his head into Materazzi's chest during the tense second period of extra time.

It was his last act as a professional player and one that was widely criticized in France and abroad.

With the score locked 1-1 after 120 minutes the French missed Zidane's prowess in the penalty shootout, which Italy calmly won 5-3 to collect its fourth World Cup title.

Zidane, 34, a former international player of the year and 1998 World Cup champion, announced last month that he was retiring from soccer after the tournament.

He wasn't particularly outstanding in France's opening draws with Switzerland and South Korea and missed the last group match against Togo due to suspension. But Zidane produced some vintage performances in the wins over Spain, Brazil and Portugal in the knockout phase.

Golden Ball Voting Totals
Zinedine Zidane, France 2,012 points
Fabio Cannavaro, Italy 1,977
Andrea Pirlo, Italy 715

Voting for the 2006 Golden Ball closed at midnight Sunday. In previous tournaments, the ballot has closed at halftime in the final and the winner announced soon after the match.

Italy captain Cannavaro led an Italian defense that conceded only two goals in the tournament: an own-goal against the United States and Zidane's penalty. The final was his 100th cap for Italy.

"I got my award, that's it right there," Cannavaro said, gesturing toward the World Cup trophy sitting on the table in front of him. "I'm extremely pleased with what I have."

With fellow central defender Alessandro Nesta injured, Cannavaro played every minute of Italy's seven games.

Many pundits tipped Cannavaro as the winner, including 1986 winner Diego Maradona.

"Fabio Cannavaro was the best player of this World Cup," the Argentine great said. "Yes, it was a tournament without one dominant player, but Fabio was huge."

Germany goalkeeper Oliver Kahn won the Golden Ball in 2002. Other previous winners were Brazilians Ronaldo (1998) and Romario ('94) and Italy's Salvatore Schillaci ('90).

Germany striker Miroslav Klose was the Golden Shoe winner for the tournament's leading scorer. He won with five goals. Ronaldo won the award in 2002 with eight goals.