World Cup 2006: Tournament that saw the last of Zidane, Ronaldo

Zidane’s walk off the pitch in the final after being shown a red card was his last in French colours.

Host: Germany
Teams: 32
Format: Group stage, knockouts
Matches: 64
Goals: 147
Winners: Italy
Runners-up: France
Golden boot: Miroslav Klose (Germany)

Background

Germany hosted its first World Cup as a reunified nation after narrowly beating South Africa in the bidding process.

The process itself was later found to be allegedly fixed by members of the German Football Association (DFB) who had bought votes from FIFA members.

Chief among the suspects was German legend and DFB’s bid chief Franz Beckenbauer. The investigation into the allegations was opened in 2016 but closed in 2021 without a result as the statute of limitations expired after an amendment to FIFA’s rules in 2018.

On the field, the hosts made a perfect start to the tournament when Phillip Lahm scored in the fifth minute of the opening game win against Costa Rica. The Germans then won the remaining two group matches and their round-of-16 match against Sweden without much trouble.

In the semi-final, they were met with the force of the eventual champions Italy.

Defending champions Brazil took a similar route in the group stage, scoring seven goals and winning all three games. Their round-of-16 match was against debutants Ghana, whom they thumped 3-0. In the quarter-final, they played France who got there after a slow start.

The match was decided by a quickly taken free kick by Thierry Henry, while Brazil’s Roberto Carlos was busy tying his shoelaces.

France and Italy met in the final of a World Cup for the first time. France’s 1998 hero Zinedine Zidane scored from a spot in the seventh minute but Italy equalised soon with Marco Materazzi’s header in the 19th minute.

The match went into extra time and towards the end, came one of the most bizarre moments of a World Cup final.

Zidane and Materazzi had a heated exchange, which was followed by some shirt tugging and Zidane’s headbutt into Materazzi’s chest. The French star was sent off.

The penalty shoot-out saw a perfect five from Italy, giving them their fourth World Cup title.

Highs

It was one of the most-watched events in television history with an audience of 26.3 billion.

Serbia and Montenegro played as one team despite becoming two nations prior to the World Cup.

Africa had three debutant countries, of which Ghana qualified for the knockouts.

Lows

Brazil’s Ronaldo played his last World Cup, scoring three goals in the tournament.

The World Cup was in the news for bribery allegations for years until the case was closed in 2021 by FIFA.

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