Zidane's iconic status survives flash of rage

With a few days' reflection, one can't help pondering the World Cup's immense power to forge or destroy reputations. Although ostensibly a sporting event, the tournament is of course much more than that. The globe's biggest media phenomenon is the projection of billions of people's passions, aspirations and prejudices, upon just a few individuals.

After five weeks of intense media coverage we're left with a few powerful images: the colourful throng of Germans in the shadow of the Brandenburg Gate; harassed-looking referees handing out red cards; Cristiano Ronaldo's sly wink as Wayne Rooney was dismissed; and, of course, Zinedine Zidane's glare as he prepared to floor Marco Materazzi.

Some of these images were the result of careful PR planning, some the fallout of circumstance.

The German authorities had made great efforts to ensure the World Cup reflected well on their historically maligned nation. The campaign, meticulously planned, was an unmitigated success.

On its part, governing body FIFA set out to prove it had the authority to clamp down on the violent behaviour that has crept into 'the beautiful game'. This led to several matches - most notoriously Portugal vs Holland - where referees handed out yellow and red cards as if they were money-off vouchers. FIFA subsequently sent the opposite missive to its referees and the cards virtually dried up.

The players, more difficult to control, are brands just the same. Cristiano Ronaldo became a hate figure overnight, both in the British tabloids and in the German stadia. He now looks as if he may move from Manchester United to Real Madrid as a direct result.

Zidane is a more complex case. Branded 'a disgrace' by TV pundits, one saw another response from the general public. Within hours of his dismissal from the final he was receiving plaudits from around the world.

It was reassurance that the strongest brands simply refuse to be destroyed overnight.

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