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Italy defender Marco Materazzi has spoken for the first time about the verbal spat that led to his World Cup final clash with French star Zinedine Zidane.

A Zidane head-butt on the Italian defender saw the French captain dismissed near the end of extra-time of the July 9 final in Berlin.

Zidane subsequenty claimed he was verbally abused by Materazzi, although he has not divulged what his opponent had actually said.

But in an interview with the Gazzetta dello Sport, Materazzi claimed it was a remark he made about Zidane’s sister that provoked the Frenchman.

Materazzi said that Zidane offered to give him his France jersey after the final whistle in response to the shirt-tugging by the Italian, but he had replied: “I would prefer your sister.”

“I did not cause it,” he told Gazzetta. “I answered verbally with a provocation to defend myself.

“Yes, I was tugging his shirt, but when he said to me scornfully ‘If you want my shirt so much I’ll give it to you afterwards,’ is that not a provocation? I answered that I’d prefer his sister, it’s true.

“It’s not a particularly nice thing to say, I recognise that. But loads of players say worse things … I didn’t even know he had a sister before all this happened,” added Materazzi.

Materazzi was speaking ahead of Wednesday’s eagerly anticipated Euro 2008 clash between France and Italy – a match which the defender will miss after he was handed a two-mtch suspension for his part in Zidane’s dismissal.

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