Triumph in Berlin for Marcello Lippi's team
|Fabio Grosso, who scored Italy's|
winning penalty in the final
The victory made Italy only the second nation after five-times champions Brazil to win the World Cup four times or more. They were successful previously in 1934, 1938 and 1982 and have been runners-up twice, in 1970 and 1994.
Italy reached the final in 2006 by defeating hosts Germany in the semi-final in Dortmund, an attacking match determined by two goals in the final moments of extra time from Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero after goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon had pulled off some stunning saves.
In football terms, the final was a much less captivating spectacle, with each team scoring in the first 20 minutes but unable to find a second goal. It was marred by the sending off of France's Zinedine Zidane in his last competitive match before retiring from the game.
Zidane was shown the red card for head-butting the Italian defender Marco Materazzi 10 minutes into extra time.
The two had been the key figures during the 90 regulation minutes, Zidane having given France the lead with a seventh-minute penalty controversially awarded for a foul on him by Materazzi.
Materazzi equalised in the 19th minute with a header from a corner, scoring his second goal in a tournament in which he had also received a red card, in the round-of-16 match against Australia in which the Italians only just scraped through.
The incident that led to Zidane's expulsion came after the two appeared to engage in a brief conversation on the field. The French player began to walk away from the Italian but then suddenly turned round and head-butted Materazzi in the chest with such force that he knocked him to the ground.
|Italian fans celebrate at the Circus Maximus in Rome, where|
captain Fabio Cannavaro and his team showed off the trophy
Materazzi was also fined and given a two-match ban after he admitted using insulting language to Zidane. However, he always denied that he made comments of a racist nature and after a two-year fight won damages from three English newspapers over allegations that he had done.
In the penalty shoot-out, David Trezeguet's miss for France enabled semi-final hero Fabio Grosso to be Italy's man of the moment again when he then scored his spot kick, giving Italy a 5-3 win.
Italy had lost all three previous World Cup shoot-outs in which they had been involved, including the 1990 semi-final against Argentina when they were hosts, and the 1994 final in the United States, when Brazil won.
On their return to Italy, captain Fabio Cannavaro and his squad met Italian president Giorgio Napolitano and prime minister Romano Prodi, with all of the players, plus coach Marcello Lippi and his technical staff, awarded the Order of Merit of the Republic.
This was followed by an open-top bus parade through Rome to the Circus Maximus, where the players assembled on a stage to show off the trophy. An estimated 500,000 people turned out to salute their heroes.
|The elaborately decorated facade of the Basilica|
di Santa Croce, one of many fine buildings in Lecce
Marco Materazzi hails from Lecce, a city in Puglia renowned for its Baroque architecture and sometimes nicknamed the Florence of the South. The attractive city centre contains the ruins of a Roman amphitheatre but much of what visitors see was built in the 17th century, including the elaborately decorated Basilica di Santa Croce.
Circus Maximus is the site of a Roman chariot racing stadium in the valley between the Palatine and Aventine hills, not far from the Colosseum. The stadium alone could accommodate more than 150,000 spectators and the remains can be seen in what is now a vast area of parkland, regularly used as a venue for open air concerts because of the potential for huge audiences.
How Paolo Rossi's hat-trick stunned Brazil
Marcello Lippi - the coach who masterminded 2006 victory
Italia 90: Semi-final agony for Azeglio Vicini
Italia 90: Schillaci matches Rossi by winning the Golden Boot
(Photo of Fabio Grosso by David Ruddell CC BY-SA 2.0)
(Photo of fans in Circus Maximus by Alessio Damato CC BY-SA 3.0)
(Photo of Basilica di Santa Croce by Tango 7174 CC BY-SA 4.0)