The 2006 FIFA World Cup

The 2006 FIFA World Cup, the first in a unified Germany, saw Italy claim their 4th title, a surprising outcome given the Italian domestic game’s problems that summer in the Calciopoli scandal.

Group Stage

A young German aside qualified from Group A with ease, earning plaudits for their attacking style. A 4-2 win over Costa Rica opened the tournament in style.

England had a scare when, having already made the Round of 16 from Group B, they lost their striker Michael Owen to a horrific knee injury in their draw against fellow qualifiers Sweden.

Argentina and the Netherlands both successfully negotiated the “group of death” in Group C, with Argentina emphatically beating Serbia & Montenegro 6-0 on the way. That game featured a sublime goal from the Argentines at the end of a 20+ pass move.

Group E saw one of many ill-tempered matches at the tournament, as the United States and Italy contested a game that finished with nine men against 10, with Daniele De Rossi’s dismissal earning him a four game suspension. Ghana were one of only two debutant nations to make it out of the group stage.

Brazil and Spain left their groups with 100% records, and both were followed into the Round of 16 by surprise entities, as Australia beat out more established nations in Group F and Ukraine performed well in their debut tournament to join Spain from Group H. The Group Stage saw one of the more comical moments in recent World Cups as English referee Graham Poll erroneously awarded Josip Simunic three yellow cards before dismissing him in Croatia’s game with Australia.

Last 16

The Round of 16 saw Portugal and the Netherlands contest a match notorious for the lack of discipline shown by both teams – they amassed 16 yellow cards and four reds between them. Maniche’s goal would prove to be the difference as Portugal advanced.

Elsewhere, Argentina needed an extra-time winner from Maxi Rodriguez to beat Mexico. Italy beat Australia thanks to a controversial penalty, converted deep into stoppage time by Francesco Totti, after once more losing a player to a red card early in the encounter.

France rallied from a lacklustre showing in the Group Stage to beat Spain emphatically 3-1.

Quarter Finals

The Quarter Finals saw two ties settled by penalty shoot-outs, as Germany eliminated Argentina after a late Miroslav Klose equalizer, and Portugal beat England in a goalless encounter that saw Wayne Rooney sent off after stamping on an opponent.

Zinedine Zidane, who had announced his retirement from football before the tournament, turned back the years in a commanding display as France narrowly beat Brazil in a rematch of 1998 finalists – Thierry Henry’s goal separating them.

Semi Finals

Zidane was central once again, scoring the penalty that was the difference as France beat Portugal 1-0.

In the other semi-final, Italy left it as late as they possibly could to beat host-nation Germany, Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero scoring goals in the 118th and 120th minute in extra time for the Azzuri.


Much of the build-up to the final – a match up of the Euro 2000 finalists – centred around Zidane, as the game was to be the last for a player seen by many to be the best of his generation. Zizou started well, opening the scoring with a penalty, but would eventually end the game in ignominy as he was sent off in extra time for head-butting Marco Materazzi. Materazzi had equalized earlier in the game with a towering header.

The Italians finally triumphed after a penalty shoot-out where they converted all of their spot-kicks, David Trezeguet’s lone miss proving vital – an ironic twist as it was Trezeguet who scored the winner in the European Championship final between the two sides six years earlier.

Despite his sending-off, Zidane was named Player of the Tournament, though the lasting memory of the tournament would unfortunately prove to be his long walk down the tunnel.

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