He was the greatest player of his generation and arguably one of the best ever to grace a football pitch.
Everything seemed to be going as per the script when in the seventh minute Zidane put the French into a 1-0 lead over Italy. His heart may have been in his mouth, though, as his casually chipped penalty went in via the underside of the crossbar.
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Chances were few and far between thereafter and consequently the match headed into extra time where the two goalscorers would be involved in one of the most memorable moments in World Cup history.
There were 11 minutes left before penalties and the ball was in the France half when all of a sudden Materazzi fell to the floor in apparent agony at the other end of the pitch.
While confusion initially engulfed everyone, television replays soon showed that Zidane had planted his head with brute force into Materazzi's chest.
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It was later claimed that the Italian defender had verbally insulted Zidane's mother or sister (or both), but he had to be red-carded by Argentine referee Horacio Elizondo and a glittering career had ended in disgrace.
The picture of Zidane walking past a cup that he should have been lifting for a second time is one that lives long in the memory.
Zizou's departure hurt Les Bleus greatly during the shootout. There is no doubt that he would have taken one, but as it was, Italy ran out 5-3 winners to claim the famous trophy for a fourth time.