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2006: Azurri win fourth crown

PARIS, May 7 – The 2006 World Cup saw the tournament return to Germany after a 32-year absence and it was widely acclaimed as a triumph for the host nation, sparking a huge upsurge in national pride.It also heralded a return to prominence for the European super-powers, with all four semi-finalists hailing from Europe for the first time since 1982 after Brazil and Argentina went out in the quarter-finals.

Argentina captured the imagination with a peerless 6-0 thrashing of Serbia and Montenegro in the group phase but they were sent packing after a penalty shootout defeat to the hosts.

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil, meanwhile, fell to a resurgent France.

Germany’s crowd-pleasing run came to an end in a 2-0 semi-final defeat to Italy after a superb game in Dortmund that went to extra time, while a Zinedine Zidane penalty allowed a much-maligned France to overcome Portugal.

Marcello Lippi’s Italy won the final — their fourth success — on penalties, with left-back Fabio Grosso sweeping home the decisive spotkick after the game ended 1-1.

The abiding image of the final, however, was Zidane’s scarcely believable headbutt on Italy goalscorer Marco Materazzi and subsequent red card.


Zinedine ZIDANE

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FRANCE: b. 1972

A shy boy born to Algerian parents in the Marseille suburbs, Zidane would grow up to lead his country to their first ever World Cup on home soil in 1998.

Sinewy playmaker with a feathery touch and an almost balletic grace, he made his international bow in August 1994 as Les Bleus sought to rebuild after failing to qualify for that year’s World Cup in America.

Four years later he had become the team’s creative fulcrum and he scored two uncharacteristic headers as France defeated Brazil 3-0 in the final at a fervent Stade de France.

Won the 2000 European Championship with France and became the world’s most expensive footballer when he joined Real Madrid from Juventus for around 75 million euros the year after.

Rushed back prematurely from a thigh injury in time for the 2002 World Cup and played just one game as the defending champions made a humiliating group-stage exit.

Coaxed out of international retirement for the 2006 World Cup, Zidane rolled back the years to inspire France to the final but was sent off for headbutting Italy’s Marco Materazzi and never played football again.


BRAZIL: b. 1976

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The most feared Brazilian striker since Pele, Ronaldo enjoyed his first World Cup experience at the age of 17 when he was a non-playing member of the Brazil squad that won the 1994 tournament in the USA.

A lithe, bewilderingly skillful forward with searing pace, he scored prolifically for Cruzeiro, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and AC Milan and notched 62 goals in 97 international appearances.

Having inspired Brazil to the 1998 World Cup final with four goals he suffered a mysterious fit on the eve of the decider with hosts France and was a shadow of himself in his side’s 3-0 defeat.

Redeemed himself in thrilling fashion four years later by scoring a tournament-high eight goals as Brazil romped to their fifth World Cup.

A goal against Ghana at the 2006 tournament made him the highest scorer in World Cup finals history with 15.


ENGLAND: b. 1975

Blessed with a finely calibrated right foot and a commendable work ethic, Beckham became one of the world’s richest and most famous sportsmen thanks to his equally well-developed gift for self-promotion.

Burst onto the international scene at the 1998 World Cup as the blond-haired boyfriend of Spice Girl Victoria Adams but was sent off in England’s last-16 defeat on penalties to Argentina.

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Became the scapegoat for England’s failure but rose above the jeers and the cat-calls to win the Champions League with Manchester United in 1999 before joining Real Madrid in 2003.

Returned to the World Cup as England captain in 2002 but was short of fitness after a much-publicised metatarsal injury and could not prevent a quarter-final exit to eventual winners Brazil.

Portugal were England’s vanquishers in 2006 and Beckham’s dreams of a fourth tournament in 2010 were abruptly cut short by a ruptured Achilles tendon sustained during a loan spell at AC Milan.


Miroslav Klose (GER) 5

Hernan Crespo (ARG) 3

Maxi Rodriguez (ARG) 3

Ronaldo (BRA) 3

Thierry Henry (FRA) 3

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Zinedine Zidane (FRA) 3

Lukas Podolski (GER) 3

Fernando Torres (ESP) 3

David Villa (ESP) 3


– With Italy, France, Germany and Portugal reaching the semi-finals, it was the first time the last four had been an all-European affair since the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

– Italy’s triumph was their fourth, after previous successes in 1934, 1938 and 1982, and took them ahead of Germany (three) and one tournament behind Brazil (five) in the list of all-time winners.

– David Beckham’s goal against Ecuador in the last 16 made him the first English player to score in three World Cup finals after goals against Argentina in 1998 and 2002.

– By scoring in the final, Zinedine Zidane joined Pele, Vava and Paul Breitner in an elite group of players to have scored goals in two different World Cup finals.

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– Zidane also became only the fourth player to be sent off in a World Cup final.

– Ronaldo’s opening goal in Brazil’s 3-0 last-16 victory over Ghana was his 15th at the World Cup, surpassing Gerd Muller’s previous record of 14.

– More cards were shown at the 2006 World Cup than at any previous tournament, with 345 yellow cards and 28 red cards dished out.

– Miroslav Klose’s five goals represented the lowest number of strikes by a World Cup golden boot winner since 1962.

– English referee Graham Poll mistakenly showed three yellow cards to Josip Simunic before sending him off in Croatia’s 2-2 group-stage draw with Australia. The defender was booked twice in the second half but was not sent off until he received a third caution for dissent after the final whistle.



Goalkeepers: Gianluigi Buffon, Angelo Peruzzi, Marco Amelia

Defenders: Cristian Zaccardo, Fabio Grosso, Fabio Cannavaro, Andrea Barzagli, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta, Massimo Oddo, Marco Materazzi

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Midfielders: Daniele De Rossi, Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Camoranesi, Simone Barone, Simone Perrotta, Andrea Pirlo

Forwards: Alessandro Del Piero, Luca Toni, Francesco Totti, Alberto Gilardino, Vincenzo Iaquinta, Filippo Inzaghi

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