The final of the tournament had Zinedine Zidane, perhaps the best player of the edition, get red-carded.

Historically, there have only been two World Cups that have gone to the wire. The 2006 World Cup won by Italy was one of them and is perhaps the most underrated showpiece in history. The World Cup’s 18th edition saw many incidents, including Zidane’s headbutt, Italy’s success, and many retirements. 

For the second time in its history, Germany hosted the world cup. Throughout the tournament, there were debates, racial tensions, and disagreements among players, which kept the tournament a fiery wave. Today we will take a look back at all the competitive games and memorable moments from the 2006 World Cup. 

Group Stage Drama

Some teams were placed in very interesting situations after the draws. Group C and Group E were regarded as the “Groups of Death”. Argentina, the Netherlands, the Ivory Coast, and Montenegro were in Group C, while Italy, Ghana, the Czech Republic, and the United States were in Group E.

With a 100% winning percentage in group A, Germany qualified for the knockout round without any problems. Ecuador joined them in the next round and lost only one game to host Germany.

After successfully beating Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago, England and Sweden emerged as the group’s B leaders with England finishing above Sweden. After avoiding Ivory Coast scars, Argentina won Group C with a goal-difference advantage. The Netherlands finished second. 

With Costinha’s incredible performance, Portugal dominated group D. Mexico also scraped by with one win, one loss, and one draw. Italy dominated group E, conceding only once. Ghana was the surprise of the group after defeating big teams like USA and Czech Republic.

The defending champions Brazil passed Group F with a 100% record despite some controversy in a game between Australia and Japan. Australia also qualified successfully for the next round. Surprisingly, Switzerland won Group G ahead of France with 3 wins. France struggled but somehow advanced. Spain and Ukraine qualified very comfortably for the knockout stages after cruising past Saudi Arabia and Tunisia in Group H.

Round of 16 Clashes 

In the first match of the round of 16, Germany faced Sweden. Lukas Podolski scored a brace in the first half to seal the win for the hosts. The second match pitted Argentina against Mexico. The match went into extra time and Argentina won via Maxi Rodrigez’s goal in the 98th minute.

In the next match, England played Ecuador, a match that was evenly balanced for most of the game before David Beckham’s freekick goal gave England a 1-0 victory. In the fourth knockout match, Portugal and the Netherlands played a classic match, full of controversy over referee decisions. However, Maniche’s goal ensured Portugal’s passage to the quarter-final.

The fifth game of the Round of 16 was between Italy and Australia, where Italy comfortably won the game. Switzerland and Ukraine met in the sixth match and played a very intense football game. Ukraine in the last won on penalties. In the next match of the round of 16 games, Brazil faced Ghana. As expected, the Brazilians crushed the Ghanaians.

Spain and France met in the final match of round 16. On paper, the match appeared evenly poised. But France advanced to the quarterfinals comfortably.

Competitive Quarter Finals

In the first quarterfinal match, Germany faced Argentina in a perfect match football. The game was decided on penalties where the hosts edged past Argentina. 

The match between Italy and Ukraine seemed to be the easiest draw. And it wasn’t a disappointment. Italy won very comfortably with Luca Toni Brace, continuing their hunt for this coveted trophy.

England vs. Portugal was a game to be remembered for years. The game was level until the end and was decided on penalties. The Portugal keeper emerged as the hero and stopped the star-studded English lineup.

In the last quarterfinal, France defeated the defending champions Brazil in a match that was evenly poised. Thierry Henry’s goal in the 57th minute crushed Brazil’s dreams.

Disheartening Semifinals

World Cup hopefuls moved closer to their dream of winning the tournament after high-scoring clashes in the quarterfinals.

In the first semi-final, hosts Germany faced Italy. The match went to extra time and appeared to be heading for penalties. However, Italy scored a stunning goal in the 119th minute helping Italy in defeating the hosts.

The second semi-final, however, was a bit dull after the nerve-wracking first semi-final. Zidane scored the lone goal in the 33rd minute to give France victory. 

An Iconic Final to remember 

The final game of World Cup 2006 was booked between France and Italy. Both teams were extraordinary throughout the tournament and their battle in the final is still remembered.

Despite the match being neck to neck and going to penalties and Italy winning the World Cup, Zidane’s headbutt on Marco Materazzi stole the show during the drama of the match. 

Additionally, that match marked the end of Zidane’s international career, and he would have loved to end his glorious career in another way.

Awards winners in the 2006 World cup 

Zidane won the Golden Ball for his three goals and impeccable impact despite the controversial exit from the World Cup final. Miroslav Klose won the Golden Boot for the World Cup 2006 ahead of any player from Italy and France for scoring five important goals to help Germany finish third.

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