The Azzurri won the competition in a controversial and nerve-wracking final on penalties.
2006 was the year in which Italy finally ended their 24-year search for a World Cup as they prevailed over France on penalties in the grand finale to lift the biggest honour in football for the fourth time in the nation’s history. Led by the legendary Fabio Cannavaro, the Azzurri displayed the classic catenaccio style en route to their historic win with inspired defensive performances and work-rate. Most of the players though aren’t playing or related with the game today.
Here we take a peek into where the footballers from that Italy national team are currently based and what they are up to.
The evergreen custodian excelled in his position conceding only two goals in the entire tournament. Buffon played every minute of the World Cup and kept five clean sheets for Italy. Buffon is still going on since that triumph holding on to win the elusive Champions League with Juventus.
Marco Amelia was the understudy to Buffon but the latter’s rock-solid performances in goal meant that Amelia didn’t play a single minute in the World Cup. He retired from football in 2017 and was recently sacked as the head coach of Serie D club Vastese six months earlier due to poor results.
Angelo Peruzzi’s case was the same as Amelia’s as he was the elder statesman within the team. The goalkeeper retired in 2007 and currently is the team manager for Lazio.
Cristian Zaccardo was a formidable backup in defence despite playing only 157 minutes in three games. But winning it proved to be the only trophy in his career along with the 2008-09 Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg. Zaccardo retired last year and has since taken a break from the beautiful game.
Fabio Grosso was one of the unsung heroes of the 2006 Italy side, demonstrating excellent work-rate and athleticism in his role. He also scored the winning penalty in the final. He was sacked by Brescia last season, not even lasting a month in his new job.
Captain Extraordinaire Cannavaro was the only player other than Buffon to play every minute of the 2006 World Cup despite being 32. Cannavaro’s heroics won him the Ballon d’Or that year, becoming only the second defender to win football’s highest individual accolade. Cannavaro retired from the game in 2011 and currently manages Chinese Super League team Guangzhou Evergrande.
Andrea Barzagli featured for only 124 minutes in two games across the entire edition. But he stayed true to his craft showing exceptional quality when called upon. He retired from Juventus last season, joining their defensive coaching staff when Maurizio Sarri was appointed ahead of the new season. But Barzagli left his job in 2020 citing personal reasons.
Alessandro Nesta played only 197 minutes of World Cup football despite his stature in the defence. But the former Milan and Lazio defender stepped on to the podium to receive a winner’s medal for his efforts in the knockout stages. Nesta retired from professional football in 2014 when he featured in the Indian Super League season for Chennaiyin FC for a couple of games. He is currently the manager of Frosinone in Serie B, having been appointed in 2019.
Gianluca Zambrotta featured for 600 minutes in the tournament, becoming a mainstay on the right for Italy. He was also voted to UEFA’s Team of the Year in 2006. Zambrotta managed Delhi Dynamos in the ISL in 2016. He joined Jiangsu Suning in 2017 before leaving again a year later.
Massimo Oddo didn’t feature much in the World Cup playing only 22 minutes of football, but it was enough to secure a medal. He bid adieu to his stop-start career in 2012 and moved into management in 2015. He was last appointed as manager of Perugia ahead of the current season only to be sacked midway through the campaign.
If there was one player whom the 2006 edition made a household name then it was Marco Materazzi, for more infamous reasons. The former Inter defender was the highest scorer for Italy along with Luca Toni, scoring two goals including the equaliser in the final against France, but he will always be remembered more for receiving ‘that’ headbutt from Zidane.
He featured as player-manager for Chennaiyin FC in the first two editions of the Indian Super League and won the title in 2015 before leaving the following season.
Daniele De Rossi
Daniele De Rossi featured in the three games including the final and had a quiet World Cup but victory made it sweeter. De Rossi is considered one of the best Italian midfielders of his generation. He retired in 2020 while playing for Boca Juniors citing personal reasons only six months after moving from lifelong employers Roma.
Gennaro Gattuso was the battle-hardened maverick manning the midfield for the Italians and was an inextricable part of the Azzurri’s charge on the title featuring for 552 minutes in the campaign. Gattuso retired in 2013 and is currently the manager of Napoli with whom he won the Coppa Italia 2020.
Mauro Camoranesi featured in five games across the tournament for the Azzurri in midfield but didn’t register a single goal or assist. He retired in 2014 and is currently the manager of Slovenian Pro League side Tabor Sezana.
Simone Barrone didn’t have much to do during the World Cup playing only two games. He was Gianluca Zambrotta’s assistant during the former’s tenure as manager of Delhi Dynamos and is currently the Youth team coach for Sassuolo since 2018.
Simone Perotta was an important part of the Italian midfield featuring in all games in the tournament and providing one assist. He also enjoyed a successful playing career with Roma where he ended his playing career in 2013. He hasn’t been involved in any footballing activity since.
‘Il Professore’ was one of only five players to feature in every game in the World Cup and finished with a goal and three assists to his name. He finished his career as one of the best and classiest midfielders in the game and now manages his family business including his famous vineyards in Italy.
Alessandro Del Piero
Del Piero was the ideal attacker for Marcello Lippi, playing the perfect second fiddle to Luca Toni. He scored once in the tournament. Del Piero was a club legend for Juventus and retired in 2014 while representing Delhi Dynamos in the ISL. He currently runs his own restaurant in Los Angeles and is also involved in charity and other community work.
Luca Toni was considered as one of the best strikers of his generation. He was the top scorer for Italy at that year’s World Cup with two strikes. Toni ended his career with Hellas Verona in 2016. Post-retirement, he is currently working on receiving his pro coaching license with UEFA.
Totti played an important part in Italy’s triumph scoring once and assisting four times. He played in all games in the tournament, featuring for 468 minutes. Totti played his entire career with Roma, played in 786 matches and retired in 2017 to become one of the club directors. But he relinquished his position two years later citing issues with the management.
Alberto Gilardino was a decent performer considering the depth of options the Azzurri had in the attack, chipping in with a goal and assist in five games in the tournament. The forward enjoyed a successful playing career as well, winning multiple league titles and a Champions League. He is currently managing Pro Vercelli in Italy’s third division, Serie C.
Vincenzo Iaquinta enjoyed a quiet World Cup and finished with the winner’s medal scoring once in five games that he played in. Iaquinta retired in 2012 but his retirement didn’t prove peaceful as he was embroiled in a legal battle and is serving a two-year prison sentence for illegal possession of firearms for the Mafia.
Surprisingly, Filippo Inzaghi played only once in the entire tournament where he scored his only goal against the Czech Republic in the final group game. But he enjoyed a very successful club career with Juventus and then AC Milan. Inzaghi retired from professional football in 2012 and is currently the coach of Serie B side Benevento.