2006 FIFA World Cup
Unofficial reports say that an approximate 715 million people tuned in to watch the FIFA World Cup 2006 Final between defending champions France and three-time World Cup winners Italy. Well any one of those 715 million people will tell you that it was definitely a thrilling 90 minutes of world class football and a well deserved triumph for the Azzurri. Although the boys from Italy went home with the trophy, the team that enthralled the audience was undoubtedly the young German team coached by Jurgen Klinsman, who bought with them a high-adrenaline, up-tempo, attacking football. The hosts ended the tournament taking home third place and were also the top scorers with 14 goals in the tournament. Miroslav Klose walked away with the Adidas Golden Shoe for his five goals, and 20-year-old Lukas Podolski with three goals went home with the Gillette Best Young Player Award.
32 teams, 64 matches, 12 magnificently constructed football stadiums, approximately 3.5 million spectators and a global audience of over 30 billion people, Germany sure put up quite a show in terms of their teams performance as well as their countrymen’s generosity to the visitors amounting in millions.
Like well aged wine, Zinedine Zidane on his third world cup for France helped his team to ward of the Spanish and the Brazillian attacks en route to the finals held at Berlin. Yet his efforts went in vain even after a goal against Italy in the finals when he was sent off unceremoniously for head-butting Marco Materazzi. Nevertheless his efforts for France earned him the prestigious adidas Golden Ball. Portugal’s Christiano Ronaldo got his share of the spotlight helping his team make it to the final four for the first time since 1966. Argentina’s Cambiasso provided one of the best finishes of the world cup scoring after a 24 man passing move which showed that the former champions still had the spark in them defeating Serbia and Montenegro 6-0.
The teams from Ivory coast and Ghana gave a splendid performance, with Ivory coast losing to giants Argentina and Netherlands by just one goal each. Ghana’s performance was a sight to see, they were poised to attack and beat the Czech Republic and the USA only to lose to Brazil in the Round of 16. Ecuador warded off attacks from both Poland and Costa Rica to reach the second round for the first time in Ecuador’s football history. Switzerland’s defence went un-breached in their first four matches. Favorites, Brazil and England gave rather lackluster performances despite reaching the last eight. Brazil’s only reason to celebrate could have been Ronaldo setting a FIFA record with his 15th World Cup goal.
The Asian teams were not as prepared as they were in 2002 and ended up going home in the first stages of the tournament. The only surprise of the tournament came when Ukraine reached the final eight beating Switzerland in the penalty shootout. They lost to Cannavaro and co in the quarter-finals, and nine days later on July 9th an ecstatic Italy lifted the FIFA World Cup Trophy beating former champions France in a penalty shootout in one of the best played FIFA World Cup Finals.