France coach Raymond Domenech said the referee should have given Zinedine Zidane more protection in the World Cup final defeat against Italy in Berlin.
Zinedine Zidane says goodbye to the World Cup and to football
Zidane was sent off in extra-time for a headbutt on Marco Materazzi before France went on to lose on penalties.
"Materrazzi is the man of the match, not Andrea Pirlo," said Domenech.
"When one has to put up with what Zidane had to and the referee doesn't do anything, one understands. You can't excuse it, but you can understand it."
The France coach added that Zidane regretted what had happened but refused to say if he had apologised.
"To see him finish his career in this way is sad," said Domenech. "He has had a great career and a great World Cup.
"Something must have happened but I don't know what. I don't think he decided out of the blue to headbutt him, that he wanted to leave the pitch, something must have happened.
"The referee saw nothing, the assistant referee saw nothing and then we have the fourth official seeing the video replay and telling the referee."
He has a hot temper; he can react
Italy coach Marcello Lippi criticised his French counterpart and defended Materazzi, saying his players did nothing to implicate Zidane and get him sent off.
"Domenech made a gesture that was not very nice, a gesture as if Materazzi had done something but there was nothing. There was no acting. There was nothing going on," the Italian said.
"And you will realise that it was not Materazzi who got the attention of the referee.
"It was the fourth and fifth officials looking at the video at the edge of the pitch.
"We did not do anything. They saw it and they called the attention of the referee.
"Materazzi was not acting. He took a blow and he was hurt."
Zidane's 1998 World Cup winning team-mate Frank Leboeuf was also unable to defend the France captain's head-butt.
It was really a matter of chance
French President Jacques Chirac on France's defeat
"I cannot accept what he did," the former Chelsea defender told BBC Radio Five Live.
"I think Materazzi said something very bad to him for him to react like that.
"But it doesn't matter what he said - you cannot agree with what he did. I feel very ashamed - because it is not the kind of thing that this team does.
"He has a hot temper; he can react, as we have seen two or three times in his career.
Germany great Franz Beckenbauer said he was stunned by Zinedine Zidane's reaction.
"Something must have been said to Zidane. He is actually a reserved and inoffensive person," said the former World Cup winning captain and coach.
"He weakened his team. We know how sensitive the French are when they lose their captain."
French President Jacques Chirac, who watched the match at Berlin's Olympiastadion, said: "I don't know what happened, why Zidane was punished.
I don't have the heart to remember the good things right now - only the disappointment at the moment
"But I would like to express all the respect that I have for a man who represents at the same time all the most beautiful values of sport, the greatest human qualities one can imagine, and who has honoured French sport and, simply, France.
"It was really a matter of chance," he added on the result. "So it's not for me to console them. I have simply to express my admiration and respect."
France lost the shoot-out 5-3 after David Trezeguet hit the woodwork and Italy converted all their spot-kicks.
"Zidane is the first one to shoot normally but him not being there shouldn't change it that much," Domenech explained.
"We have no particular plan when it comes to penalties, it depends who is on the pitch and who feels that they want to take them.
"I can't say I'm happy just to be a finalist," said Domenech who is also unhappy his side have to attend a parade on Monday on the Champs Elysees.
"For Monday, if it was me who decided, we wouldn't have one. Thirty years ago we did that sort of thing but I don't think it is the correct thing to do now."
And Domenech said it was too soon to reflect on the positives of the match or the tournament.
"I don't have the heart to remember the good things right now. Only the disappointment at the moment," he said.
"I am deeply disappointed. We deserved the title based over the whole match.
"Only victory is beautiful and we missed out just by a little thing. We can say it wasn't too bad but it is the Italians who are the world champions.
"They played for the penalties because that was the only option for them."
Domenech also refused to speculate on his future.
He added: "I'll think about that in two or three days' time when I've had a rest and start to forget this very big disappointment.
"We have the meeting of the French federation on Tuesday and the president will say what has been decided, but this is not important now, I'm not worried about that now, I'm disappointed.
"It's not enough for me that we made the final - I thought we should have won.
"We had Patrick Vieira who was injured, that was an important element, and then the sending off reduced us to 10 men. We had the match very much under control at that point so that was indeed sad."