Italian mastery triumphs over host nation Germany
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 retur n 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 quarterfinals.
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 shoot-out 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 spot kick 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.
GLORY: Fabio Cannavaro, victorious, in 2006.