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Arsenal can lay down a marker

Arsenal
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By ESPN Staff

Zidane should keep Golden Ball - Materazzi

Italy defender Marco Materazzi is hoping Zinedine Zidane will get to keep his World Cup Golden Ball Award despite his infamous dismissal in last weekend's final.

FIFA have opened an inquiry into the ugly episode in last Sunday's showpiece which saw the France captain sent off after headbutting former Everton centre-half Materazzi in the chest.

The 34-year-old could now be stripped of the award presented to him after he was named as the best player in the tournament, but Materazzi believes that would be too harsh a punishment.

'He has won that award because of what he has done on the pitch,' said Materazzi in an interview to Gazzetta dello Sport. 'He was the best.'

Zidane spoke for the first time about the incident yesterday and apologised for his reaction, before admitting he did not regret what he had done.

According to the French star, Materazzi had insulted his family - a claim which the Italian defender has denied.

'My only real provocation was to stop Zidane from jumping,' said Materazzi.

'Earlier, he had come close to scoring (with a header) and our goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had made a superb save.

'After holding his shirt, I wasn't the first to speak.'

The Inter Milan player also hit back at accusations he over-reacted after the incident.

'I could have expected a verbal reaction but not to be headbutted,' he said.

'It's not true what (French coach Raymond) Domenech said, that I made a big drama out of it.'

Despite what has happened, Materazzi's view of Zidane has not changed.

'I have always admired Zidane,' he said.

'In fact I have one of his shirts in my closet - we exchanged our shirts after a Juventus v Perugia game.'