2006 Germany

The world stage was set for Zizou
To seal his entry in football's "who's who"
Then a butt of his head
Made the ref show a red
So he left for an early adieu

After the initial foray into Asia in 2002, FIFA brought the 2006 World Cup back to Europe, and into the continental heartland of Germany. It was the second time the Germans had hosted the World Cup, after their victorious 1974 efforts. This time it would not end in glory, but the Germans would win plenty of friends for playing in an attacking style, and coming agonisingly close in the semi-final loss to Italy.

What was going on the world in the 2006?

  • Montenegro declares independence from Serbia
  • Twitter is launched
  • North Korea claims to have conducted its first ever nuclear test
  • Celebrations for the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth are held in Salzburg
  • The human genome project publishes the last chromosone sequence

Back to the World Cup – tournament facts and records

  • Miroslav Klose was top scorer with 5 goals
  • Switzerland were eliminated in the Last 16 on penalties, and left the tournament without having conceded a goal. Switzerland also managed to lose the penalty shootout to Ukraine without scoring a single penalty
  • Despite some notable attacking play from the hosts, the goals per game was the lowest since Italia '90


Ghana, Ukraine, Ivory Coast, Angola, Trinidad & Tobago, Togo were all playing for the first time. The Czech Repubic qualified for the first time post the Czechoslovakia break up, and Serbia & Montenegro played as an entity for the only time, amid the gradual disintegration of the former Yugoslavia.

Ivory Coast had a tough draw and narrowly lost 2-1 to both Argentina and the Netherlands, but beat Serbia & Montenegro, who finished last in their group with no points and a -10 goal difference. Angola picked up draws with Iran and Mexico, but failed to get through the group. Trinidad & Tobago managed a 0-0 draw with Sweden, but lost to England and Paraguay. Togo finished bottom of the group with no points and a -5 goal difference. Czech Republic beat the USA but then lost to Italy and Ghana and failed to progress to round 2. Ghana made it to the knockout by beating USA and Czech Republic after an opening defeat to Italy, but came up against Brazil in the Last 16 and went down 3-0. Ukraine fared best of the rookies, getting through the quarter-finals after sending Switzerland home, but were outmatched against the Italians at that stage.

Who should have won but didn't?

It seems that the Italians always win the World Cup when there is a match fixing scandal in their domestic league. In 1982 Paolo Rossi had only just returned to play after a two-year ban, and in 2006 the scandal embroiled Juventus to the extent that they were kicked down into Serie B. The 2006 Italian win was, not surprisingly, based on a solid defence. With high quality performances from goalkeeper Gianni Buffon and captain Fabio Cannavaro, the Azzuri only conceded 2 goals in the tournament: a penalty and an own goal. It was thoroughly professional from the Italians and they were deserving winners.

Germany played the most attacking football and scored 14 goals, more than anyone else. One team who definitely did not deserve to win was Portugal, see 'Villain', below. Argentina scored the best goals. Two are featured here: Esteban Cambiasso's beautifully constructed team goal against Serbia & Montenegro, and Maxi Rodriguez's stunning extra time volley to defeat Mexico.

Heros and Villains

Villain: Felipe Solari

Felipe Scolari took over as coach of a Portugal squad which was absolutely bursting with talent, and proceeded to turn it into a team of hatchet men. Their disciplinary record in Germany 2006 was appalling, with 22 yellow cards and 2 red cards, in addition to the winking skullduggery of Cristiano Ronaldo in getting his Manchester Untied team mate, Wayne Rooney, sent off. Portugal's 6 goals in 6 matches, excluding the 3rd place match, was really a pathetic return for a team with this amount of talent. All too often, Pauleta, was stranded upfield as the lone striker with support from an attacking midfield, comprising Cristiano Ronaldo, Figo, Deco and Simao being far too slow to provide support.

You really do have to wonder why coaches bother to engage in football if this is going to be the thrust of their contribution to the team. Portugal had talent enough to have won this World Cup with a postiive attitude, but thankfully they came up short and lost the semi-final to France.

Here's Cristiano Ronaldo's wink

Hero: Fabio Grosso

The Italian defence was the reason for their World Cup win. Although brilliantly led by Fabio Cannavaro, it is another Fabio, Fabio Grosso, who is our hero. Stepping into the ample shoes vacated by Paolo Maldini after his retirement, Grosso could have been expected to be the weak link in the Italian back line. He wasn't at all. The only game he missed was the only game Italy failed to win, the group match against the USA which was drawn.

As the tournament progressed, Grosso got better and better, scoring the opening goal in extra time in the semi-final against Germany, effectively the winner, and taking on the responsibility of the final penalty in the penalty shootout against France in the final. He deserves the plaudits and is very much the unsung hero of Italy's winning effort.

The Battle of Nuremburg

In our series of World Cup 'battles', this Last 16 contest in Nuremburg between Portugal and the Netherlands stands out in terms of the flurry of yellow and red cards dished out by Russian referee, Valentin Ivanov. Two players from each side were sent off: Boulahrouz and van Bronckhorst from the Netherlands, and Deco and Costinha from Portugal, with a further 12 players being booked.

The Final

And so Italy lined up against France for the final. After a 1-1 scoreline at 90 minutes in which, ironically as it transpired, Zinedine Zidane and Marco Materazzi were the goalscorers, the match moved into extra time, and the two goalscorers clashed after words were exchanged. It is hard to know how much blame to put on Materazzi, but he was certainly guilty of some degree of sledging. But surely Zidane should have been able to put a lid on it and not throw a head butt.

The world's stage was set for Zizou
To seal his entry in football's "who's who"
Then a butt of his head
Made the ref show a red
So he left for an early adieu

When it came to penalties Zidane was already gone, and it is tempting to believe that the one penalty missed would have been scored by Zidame had he taken it. But remember that the miss came from David Trezeguet, and surely he would still have been chosen to take a penalty; so in all likelihood Zidane would merely have replaced one of the other successful penalty takers.

Italy had previously been involved in 3 World Cup penalty shootouts and had lost all 3, so this rare success, with 5 out of 5 converted, was pehaps unexpected.

Quick Facts

  • Teams: 32
  • When: 9 June 2006 to 9 July 2006
  • Final: 9 July 2006
  • Matches: 64
  • Goals scored: 147 (average 2.3 per match)
  • Attendance: 3,359,439 (average 52,491)

Verdict: Good, Bad or Ugly?

More bad than good, this was primarily a defensive World Cup. The best efforts came from Germany and Argentina in terms of pure entertainment, although the Italians were on top of their (defensive) game throughout. It just seems that this tournament could and should have been so much better.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *