The FIFA World Cup ended up in Italian hands in 2006, July 9 after an Azzurri triumph that owed everything to teamwork.
The abiding memory of the Final at Berlin’s Olympic Stadium may be of Zinedine Zidane’s meltdown, the France veteran earning a red card for headbutting Marco Materazzi, but there was much to admire about the Italian effort that earned them a fourth world crown.
Led by coach Marcello Lippi, who had enjoyed great success with Juventus, and seemingly galvanised by the match-fixing scandal unfolding back at home, the Italians’ quality was enhanced by an obvious camaraderie. Twenty-one of their 23-man squad played and ten of them found the net at these finals.
With a defence built around goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon and captain Fabio Cannavaro, Italy defended as well as anyone in FIFA World Cup history, conceding just two goals – one an own goal, the other a penalty. The silk-and-steel midfield combination of Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso also caught the eye, as did the swashbuckling raids of full-backs Gianluca Zambrotta and Fabio Grosso.
Italy Lay Ghosts To Rest
It was Grosso’s goal that swung a superb semi-final against Germany the Italians’ way and his spot-kick that sealed victory in the Final shoot-out after a 1-1 draw. Remarkably, it was the Azzurri’s first victory on penalties, laying to rest the ghosts of three past failures on the world stage – notably in the 1994 final.
But this FIFA World Cup was not simply an Italian success story. Jurgen Klinsmann’s young Germany side took third place on the back of an attractive brand of high-tempo, attacking football. The hosts finished as top scorers with 14 goals – five of them from Adidas Golden Shoe winner Miroslav Klose and three from Lukas Podolski, the Gillette Best Young Player.
Millions around the world saw what happened on TV. Did the officials?
Posted by FIFA World Cup on Saturday, July 2, 2016
The African newcomers had a reason for pride also. Côte d’Ivoire gave Argentina and the Netherlands scares despite losing to both, Angola earned draws with Mexico and Iran, and an attack-minded Ghana team driven by Stephen Appiah and Michael Essien beat the Czech Republic and USA before going down to Brazil in the Round of 16.
Zidane Rolls Back The Years
They had plenty to savour, including the sight of Zidane rolling back the years to help Raymond Domenech’s France see off Spain and Brazil en route to Berlin. The 33-year-old’s efforts earned him the Adidas Golden Ball but although he found the net against Italy, eight years after scoring twice in the 1998 Final, there was no happy ending.
— Italy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (@azzurri) July 9, 2020