'It will not be easy for Italy in this World Cup'

'It will not be easy for Italy in this World Cup'

Materazzi hopes Europeans will be able to break jinx

'It will not be easy for Italy in this World Cup'

Connect Marco Materazzi and Zinedine Zidane. If you answered the headbutt in the final of the 2006 World Cup, you are not even remotely close.

 They are the only two players in the history of the World Cup to have been sent off only to come back for the final, score and win the holy grail for their respective countries – Zidane was sent off against Saudi Arabia in 1998, while Materazzi saw red against Australia in 2006. 

A lot of water has flown under the bridge since that night at the Olympiastadion in Berlin. These days, the chiselled 6’3” centre back does his business off the field for Inter Milan, for whom he played most of his club football. 

In the city on Friday as an ambassador for Inter, the Italian was at ease while talking to the media. When asked to rate Italy’s chances at the World Cup, Materazzi was cautious: “It’s not going to be easy. The first game is against England. Moreover none of the European nations have ever won a World Cup in Latin America but I hope we break the jinx. And hopefully it’s Italy.” 

Talking through a translator (Inter’s international sales and marketing manager Barbara Biggi), Materazzi, who has been reported to have more than 25 tattoos on his body, explained that “it’s (tattoos) my life and all of them have a meaning.”

 The Italian defender, nicknamed The Matrix after a survey on the official Inter Milan website, started out as third choice centre back (behind captain Fabio Cannavaro and Alessandro Nesta) for Marcelo Lippi’s team in 2006 but ended up playing a crucial role. When asked how it was to replace the injured Nesta (he went off against Czech Republic), the goal-scoring defender admitted that Nesta was his idol but playing with Cannavaro was less stressful. 

“It was one of fear. Because Nesta was my idol. But since Fabio and me are good friends, it was less pressure. We had played before and hence we knew both our plays.” On the forwards he hated facing, he said he was lucky to have not played against Lionel Messi and Luiz Ronaldo. He also picked out Milan legend Paulo Maldini and Nesta as his favourite defenders. 

Italy have constantly been rocked with match-fixing scandals but they have somehow managed to bury them when it comes to performing in international tournaments (Italy won the World Cup in 2006 after Calciopoli broke, while Paolo Rossi, who was banned for two years for fixing, famously came back to inspire the Azzuri to the 1982 title). Asked how Italy manage to perform in World Cup despite the scandals, Materazzi alluded to the team’s willpower. “The dream to play. The dream to win the World Cup and the willpower to achieve it.” 

While he achieved his dream, he would be able to fulfill Indian dreams if he did take up the offer of an ISL club who has approached him to play in the franchise league — the dream of watching a World Cup winner playing football in front of their eyes.