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Tuesday, November 10, 2009
ESPNsoccernet: March 6, 2:41 PM UK
World Cup 2006

John Brewin and Martin Williamson

Winners Italy
Teams 32
Teams in qualifiers 198
Notable Absentees Cameroon, Nigeria
Surprises Angola, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Togo, Trinidad & Tobago
Golden Boot Miroslav Klose (Germany) -- 5
Stats A total of 147 goals were scored (2.30 per match); Germany (14) scored the most
Format Eight groups of four, with the top two teams in each group advancing to a knockout round of 16
Number of matches 64

Innovations

• For the first time, the holders (Brazil) did not gain automatic entry to the tournament
• Fan zones, showing matches on giant screens in open urban areas, were introduced and subsidised by sponsors. An estimated 750,000 fans packed the zone at the Brandenburg Gate for Germany's second-round match against Sweden

Controversies

• FIFA ordered a replay after Uzbekistan beat Bahrain 1-0 in the first leg of an Asia playoff, citing a "refereeing error" -- the goal had come from a illegally-taken penalty. Bahrain eventually won the two-legged contest
• In the group match between Croatia and Australia, English referee Graham Poll mistakenly issued three yellow cards to Croatian Josip Simunic before sending him off
• FIFA forced spectators to remove Leeuwenhosen -- orange-colored, lion-tailed overalls distributed by a Dutch brewery -- ahead of a Netherlands match because the brewery concerned was not an official tournament sponsor. As a result, some fans watched the game in their underwear

Trivia

• The final attracted an estimated audience of 715.1 million people
• There were a record-breaking 326 yellow cards and 28 red cards issued, with Russian referee Valentin Ivanov handing out 16 yellows and four reds in the game between Portugal and Netherlands
• To banish evil spirits, a priest from Ecuador visited all the World Cup stadia ahead of the tournament
• Switzerland became the first team to be knocked out after not conceding a goal in the first two rounds -- they lost on penalties to Ukraine in the second round


Germany's bid to host their own Weltmeisterschaft was fraught with pragmatic intrigue. Before a remarkable U-turn from FIFA delegates saw Nelson Mandela & Co. forced to wait another four years, South Africa was fully expected to be the destination of the 2006 finals.

Controversy set aside, until the football began at least, the Germans put their much-mooted organisational abilities into action and delivered a World Cup blessed with hi-tech stadia, superb transport links and a population that proved most welcoming. Franz Beckenbauer presided as figurehead in the same fashion in which he had captained and coached his country to World Cup glory and was an almost ever-present figure in the stands during the first finals staged in reunified Germany.

A break from tradition saw the hosts rather than holders get the show underway and they did so in a style that was at that time not often associated with German football. A 4-2 win over Costa Rica was a feast of flowing fare, its best moment the opening goal, a cut-in and smash from full-back Philipp Lahm that revealed Jurgen Klinsmann, in his first senior coaching assignment, had retained the attacking instincts of his playing career.

Despite the doubts of a pessimistic pre-tournament public, the hosts progressed with maximum points from their group. Chancellor Angela Merkel's cavorting after a late winner in a 1-0 defeat of Poland confirmed a feel-good factor. Germany were joined in first-round perfection by a free-scoring Spain team wondering if this was finally the time to deliver, as well as Portugal, with Cristiano Ronaldo starring, and Brazil, huge favourites, who breezed through a group containing Croatia, Japan and Australia but were still underwhelming.

Australia were in their first finals since 1974 and were thus determined to enjoy themselves. Guus Hiddink's late tactical switch delivered a win over the Japanese before a decider with the Croats ended in chaotic farce when referee Graham Poll gave three yellow cards to Josip Simunic, Australian-born but playing for Croatia, before finally sending him off three minutes after he should have done. Harry Kewell's equaliser to make it 2-2 saw Croatia join Poll in playing no further part in the tournament.

Early on, Argentina had shone in particular, punishing Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 in Gelsenkirchen, the goals including a wonderful 24-pass move finished by Esteban Cambiasso. Ivory Coast, in their first finals, were unfortunate to come up against the Argentines and the Dutch but exited with their heads held high after creditable showings against both.

Africa did have a second-round qualifier in Ghana, who beat the fancied Czechs and a USA team failing to match the showing of four years previously, to qualify behind Italy, who had drawn with the Americans in a match that saw the Europeans end the game a man down and their opponents with just nine men.

Togo were nowhere near good enough to progress but provided many a column-inch in a dispute over pay that saw them threaten to strike. Meanwhile, German coach Otto Pfister supplied sartorial charm with an open-necked shirt and large gleaming medallion. The slow-starting French were particularly glad of a Togolese presence as they required a 2-0 win over them to qualify behind a well-drilled Swiss team. The Swiss would perish at the next hurdle, to Ukraine on penalties after a 0-0 draw, thus suffering the bizarre honour of being the first team to exit a World Cup without conceding a goal (as well as the first not to score in a penalty shootout).

English hopes were at their usual fever pitch ahead of the tournament but the build-up had been ruined by Wayne Rooney's broken foot and the saga that surrounded it. Sven-Goran Eriksson's laissez-faire attitude had seen him welcome wives and girlfriends to England's HQ in Baden-Baden, giving the world the now over-used acronym WAGs, a catch-all phrase for a set of cossetted hangers-on whose drunken antics and power-shopping took headlines away from the players, which, considering performances, may have been for the best. England stumbled past Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago before a 2-2 draw with Sweden saw Michael Owen lost to a cruciate ligament injury.

The Swedes provided second-round opponents for the hosts and fell prey to a quickfire Lukas Podoski double before Henrik Larsson's penalty miss closed off a Swedish way back into the game. A thriller in Leipzig saw a Maxi Rodriguez volley take Argentina past the Mexicans in extra time. England joined them in the last eight via another unconvincing win, Ecuador the rather passive victims this time.

Portugal and Netherlands fought out an ill-tempered affair featuring no less than four red cards. In the final few minutes, dismissed Barcelona club-mates Deco and Giovanni van Bronckhorst sat arm-in-arm from the vantage point of a stadium step as a Maniche goal secured another meeting between Portugal and England.

Two favourites in Brazil and France began to look as if they were in gear. Ghana were dispatched with ease by Brazil and Ronaldo became the finals' all-time leading goalscorer, surpassing Gerd Mueller, with Brazil's opener -- his 15th on the greatest of stages. Spain again flattered to deceive in taking the lead against the French before Franck Ribery, Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane, who suddenly looked back to his untouchable best, all scored.

A burst of French form followed in the quarterfinals where Brazil's previously vaunted quartet of Kaka, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Adriano proved their lack of cohesion as an attacking unit as France dominated proceedings. Thierry Henry scored the sole goal from a Zidane assist to end the hopes of the holders, for whom Ronaldinho especially had disappointed.

France's next opponents would be the Portuguese, who won a dour encounter on penalties with the English that will be remembered for the actions of two Manchester United players. A still half-fit Rooney exploded, after being bereft of support in a lone attacking role, and targeted Ricardo Carvalho, the Chelsea player involved in the tackle that had broken his foot in the first place. When Cristiano Ronaldo urged the Argentine referee to send off his club-mate, there followed a flashpoint between the pair that dominated UK headlines for weeks, tabloid ire further augmented by a wink from Ronaldo towards the Portuguese bench. It didn't help that a grinning and clearly highly confident Ronaldo stepped up to convert the decisive spot-kick. England departed, lamented solely by their die-hards, with only Owen Hargreaves in any way enhancing his reputation. Eriksson was soon gone.

So too were Argentina, suffering another premature knockout-stage exit. They had led Germany in Berlin through a Roberto Ayala goal before coach Jose Pekerman committed the error of taking off playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme to rest him for the next round. Miroslav Klose equalised to push matters into extra time and penalties, where the Germans inevitably won out, this time by virtue of some handy written notes on each penalty taker that goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was seen revising before each Argentina attempt.

The host nation was by now believing in ultimate victory, with the chant "Berlin, Berlin, wir fahren nach Berlin (we're going to Berlin)" now sung in full voice. Waiting for them in Dortmund were an Italian team hitting form after an easy 3-0 win over Ukraine in Hamburg. The semifinal that followed was a classic that seemed destined for another penalty shootout win for the Germans. Suddenly the Italians, who had edged the balance of play, scored in the 119th and 120th minutes through defender Fabio Grosso and sub Alessandro Del Piero, finally putting years of international disappointment behind him with a breakaway strike. The tearful Germans departed with honour preserved and belief restored, eventually picking up third place.

Portugal's Ronaldo was now established as the tournament's bad guy and was booed in Munich throughout the semi with France, though he also rose to the occasion as something approaching a one-man attack. He was outshone only by Zidane, who was set to retire from all football at the end of the tournament and was determined to go out at the highest level. A foul on Henry by Carvalho gave him a penalty chance that he took with aplomb, succeeding against Portguese keeper Ricardo where England had failed. Thereafter, despite the efforts of Ronaldo and Luis Figo, himself on a last hurrah, France were destined for Berlin, Ronaldo eventually shedding tears that were not met with much in the way of worldwide sympathy.

The final would be a re-run of that of Euro 2000, where a Zidane in his pomp had inspired French victoire. He set out for the same outcome in the final and added his blend of panache when a penalty in the seventh minute was awarded after a clumsy foul on Florent Malouda by Marco Materazzi. In choosing to send arguably the world's best keeper, Gianluigi Buffon, the wrong way and then dink the ball off the bar and across the line, it looked as if he had signed off in the style he clearly wanted.

But then Materazzi, only playing at centre-half because Alessandro Nesta had succumbed to injury, powered home a header from an Andrea Pirlo corner to take the game into a chess session of two teams matching each other in every department. Extra time again arrived, and penalties loomed with few clues as to who would triumph. As it turned out, the pendulum was swung by perhaps the World Cup's most incendiary moment.

Zidane had continued to push for an opening but began to be frustrated by the flagging efforts of both his teammates and his own body. Suddenly, off the ball, he became involved in an altercation with Materazzi, the Italian crashing to the floor. The world looked on in confusion only for TV replays to show that the Frenchman had thrown his head at Materazzis chest in the style of a charging bull. The tournament had been besmirched by play-acting but this was no dive: Materazzi had been knocked from his feet. Referee Horacio Elizondo was informed by fourth official Luis Medina Cantalejo of the offence, the Spanish assistant seemingly swayed by a TV replay. Zidane, whose quiet demeanour always shadowed a hot temper, left the field wordlessly, passing the trophy with a rueful glance and sloping into football history.

With France's leader deposed, Italy gained a confidence in the shootout they had not displayed in painful exits from the 1990, 1994 and 1998 tournaments, and it was a Frenchman plying his trade in Serie A, David Trezeguet, who missed the key spot-kick. The Italians scored all five, Fabio Grosso smashing the last past Fabien Barthez to send the Azzurri into raptures. Many of their players had suffered a summer of uncertainty and accusation as part of the Calciopoli corruption scandal that had torn their domestic game's reputation to shreds. Lifting the World Cup for a fourth time served as delightful vindication.


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