French coach Raymond Domenech defended Zinedine Zidane and accused Italy of provocation after his captain was sent off in the World Cup final on Sunday night.

News photoReferee Horacio Elizondo shows the red card to France’s Zinedine Zidane in extra time during
Sunday night’s World Cup final against Italy in Berlin. Zidane’s glorious career came to a premature end.
Italy won 5-3 in a penalty shootout.

Zidane saw red in the second period of extra time after slamming his head into the chest of defender Marco Materazzi, but Domenech refused to condemn the 34-year-old playmaker after what was his last professional match.

“To see him finish in this way is sad. He has had a great career and a great World Cup,” the 54-year-old Domenech said.

“When one has to put up with what he had to for 80 minutes and the referee doesn’t do anything about it, well, you can’t excuse it but you can understand it.”

Domenech pointed the finger at Inter Milan’s Materazzi, claiming the Italian had goaded Zidane and tricked the referee and linesman.

“I think Materazzi was perhaps involved. Something must have happened, I don’t think Zidane decided out of the blue to react in such a way that he was sent off,” Domenech said.

“Materazzi fell down from a gust of wind, we know how that works.”

France finished the match stronger than the Italians, and Domenech felt France could have nicked a win had Zidane stayed on the pitch.

“We missed Zidane a lot in the last 10 minutes. We can say Zidane being sent off was the key moment of the game, because especially in extra time, the Italian team was obviously waiting for the shootout,” said Domenech.

The bitterly disappointed French coach said he couldn’t face a planned parade down the Champs Elysees in Paris on Monday.

“If it was me who decided, we wouldn’t have one. It is a very French thing to do, to be happy to have lost and not be the winner,” Domenech said.

“I am not satisfied with that. There really was an opportunity to win it. I cannot be happy simply to be a finalist.”

Domenech cut a forlorn figure amid the fireworks and ticker tape after the match as the Italians celebrated around him, and he was one of the last of the French delegation to leave Berlin’s Olympic Stadium pitch.

The coach couldn’t resist a sly dig at counterpart Marcello Lippi’s negative tactics.

“They played for the penalties because that was the only option for them,” he said.

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