Zidane: I'd support a player guilty of a headbutt

The former France star saw red for a foul on Marco Materazzi during the 2006 World Cup final but feels that he should have been shown more understanding for a provoked assault
Zinedine Zidane says that, while he would be "disappointed" if a member of his Real Madrid Castilla squad headbutted an opponent, he would still stand by the player.

The former France international was responsible for arguably the most infamous incident of violent conduct in World Cup history, having been dismissed during the closing stages of the 2006 final for driving his forehead into the chest of Italy defender Marco Materazzi.

Zidane was widely castigated for his actions, which some argued ultimately cost his country the game, with Les Bleus losing out on penalties, but the 42-year-old, who had been verbally insulted by Materazzi before lashing out, believes that he should have been shown more sympathy for what he argued was a provoked assault.

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"If I was the coach and one of my players did that? Honestly, I would be disappointed but I would not come down hard on him," Zidane told L'Equipe.

"I would try to understand what happened and I would support my player."

Zidane had put France ahead from the penalty spot after seven minutes in the final in Berlin, coolly chipping the ball over Gianluigi Buffon and the goal-line via the underside of the crossbar. It seemed like an outrageously risky way in which to try to beat the Azzurri goalkeeper but the ex-Madrid man felt that it was the only way he could score.

"[Madrid] practiced penalties the whole week before the Champions League final against Atletico [in May] and players asked me about the 2006 World Cup final and about this penalty," he revealed.

"There are still people today that tell me that I was crazy but Buffon knew me. I played with him for five seasons at Juventus and he knew the exact spot in which I like to put my penalties.

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"What would have been crazy is to shoot like I used to. I told myself: 'That's the thing you need to do. There are still 83 minutes left if you miss."

While Zidane's memories of the 2006 tournament are undeniably mixed, France's triumph on home soil in 1998 remains the most emotional moment in his long and illustrious career.

"I didn't really realise what we'd done," he confessed. "I knew I had done something great, winning a World Cup final and scoring twice. That doesn't happen every day.

"The strength that invades you at that very moment; the emotional intensity ... I've never experienced anything like this since then but I did not imagine everything what was going to happen after that. My life changed completely, in every aspect."