The 2006 World Cup saw the tournament return to Germany for the first time since 1974. Hosted between 9 June to 9 July, the tournament was a rip roaring success and brought back happy memories to most who watched it.
The tournament featured France’s redemption following their shambolic 2002 outing, as well as Brazil’s march for a sixth World Cup, and second in a row.
Argentina and England both boasted strong squads, and the latter were trying to emulate their success 40 years before.
2006 World Cup Iconic Games
England vs Sweden (2-2 Group Stage)
A game most famous for its stunning Joe Cole volley, this group stage game summed up England’s tournament - frustrating performances peppered with moments of individual quality.
Michael Owen was injured early on, before Cole’s stunner sent the England fans into bedlam. The Swedes equalised through Marcus Allbäck shortly after half-time, before Steven Gerrard appeared to give the Three Lions the win.
However, a late equaliser by Henrik Larsson rescued a point for Sweden, and the game ended in a draw.
England vs Portugal (0-0, 1-3 On Pens, Quarter-Finals)
England’s lethargic performances were on full show in this quarter-final showdown in Gelsenkirchen.
A humid July night saw the first 90 minutes pass without any goals and few clear-cut chances. Wayne Rooney, who had recently raced against time due an injury, was sent-off late on, with fellow Man Utd teammate Cristiano Ronaldo captured winking in the direction of the Portugal bench.
The Three Lions inevitably stumbled in the penalty shoot-out, scoring just once from 12 yards as they suffered a third consecutive quarter-final defeat, after the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. Interestingly, Portugal knocked England out on penalties in the latter tournament as well.
France vs Brazil (1-0, Quarter-Finals)
France were the underdogs going into this encounter, which sounds strange due to the quality of their squad. Nevertheless, Les Bleus achieved a famous victory over Brazil in the quarter-finals as the two 1998 finalists met again.
A Thierry Henry goal gave France the advance to the semis, whilst Brazil were dumped out of the tournament.
Italy vs France (1-1, On 5-3 pens, Final)
The World Cup final was, as it had been in 1998, the Zinedine Zidane Show, but this time it was for all the wrong reasons.
The legendary midfielder scored an early penalty to give France the lead, before Marco Materazzi equalised just 12 minutes later.
A cagey game unfolded from there, with the final’s most infamous moment being Zidane’s sending off in the 110th minute. Minutes after Zidane almost scored again, he was involved in an off-the-ball incident with Materazzi, where the Frenchman headbutted the Italian in the chest.
The game went to penalties 10 minutes later, where the Italians triumphed 5-3 on penalties to give them a first World Cup since 1982.
The 2006 World Cup marked the start of European hegemony over the famous trophy. To this day (as of November 2022), a team from outside the continent has failed to win the prestigious prize.
2006 World Cup Fun Facts
- The final was the last game of Zinedine Zidane’s career
- The Frenchman became the third player with three goals in a World Cup final - the other two being Geoff Hurst and Pele
- This was the first final since 1978 where the final didn’t feature Germany or Brazil
- No player from Italy’s winning squad scored more than two goals at this tournament
- Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot with just five goals
- Klose would become the tournament’s all-time top goalscorer in 2014, breaking the record set by Ronaldo in 2006
- An Ecuadorian shaman visited every host stadium prior to the tournament in an attempt to banish the evil spirits that may have been inside
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