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World Cup athletes who look completely different today



Zinedine Zidane is a national treasure in France; probably the greatest soccer player the nation has ever produced. This guy led the French team to the 1998 World Cup championship and to the runner-up spot eight years later, but to casual soccer fans from non-francophone countries, Zidane will forever be linked to an infamous and ugly incident in the 2006 World Cup final. In extra time, Italy’s Marco Materazzi approached Zidane, and muttered, well, something. 

The speculation was always that Materazzi trash-talked Zidane in some way, with the consensus being that he insulted Zidane’s mother. “My mother died when I was 15, I would never have insulted his,” Marca said in 2016 (via USA Today). “I spoke about his sister.” Zing! 

Zidane responded with some casual violence, head butting Materazzi in the chest. Refs quickly issued Zidane a red card (aka an ejection), and Italy went on to win on shootout kicks. Who knows what would have happened if France still had its star player on the field.

Making good on a rumor that he would retire from playing after the 2006 World Cup, Zidane moved to the front office of his pro team, Real Madrid. He worked his way up the club’s coaching ranks, first leading the Real Madrid youth academy, then the squad’s B team, and then coaching the top-line Real Madrid squad proper. Zidane and his players won a bunch of European titles during his two-year stint. 



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