2006 FIFA World Cup Germany
The ball: +Teamgeist
The winner: Italy
The runners-up: France
The difference maker: Italian captain defender Fabio Cannavaro lifted the trophy on the same night he earned his 100th cap for Italy and went on to win the 2006 Ballon d’0r for his performances, but it’s his teammate, goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon who was most responsible for Italy’s victory.
The supreme shot-stopper set a record by allowing only two goals, one coming off a deflection from compatriot Cristian Zaccardo on a free kick and the other resulting from a penalty kick in the finals. Zidane notched five clean sheets and didn’t allow the opposition to score for 453 minutes consecutively.
Still, it should be said that the Azzurri would not have won without of a complete team effort as 10 different players scored goals during the tournament.
The lasting memory: Despite coming out of international retirement to save France’s qualification effort and galvanizing France to the final heroically, Zinedine Zidane, Les Bleus 1998 star, etched himself into the minds of many with a moment of madness: head-butting the trash-talking Marco Materazzi in the chest in extra time of the final to earn a red card.
Though Zidane’s exit from the tournament, also the end of his playing career, was a true shame, it was perhaps fitting for a 2006 tournament rife with red and yellow cards. Referees broke the 1998 record for doling out discipline by handing out a total 345 yellows and 28 reds, including 16 cautions and four sending offs in the Round of 16 contest between Portugal and Holland.
English referee Graham Poll earned the dubious distinction of incorrectly giving out three yellow cards to a single player, Josip Simunic of Croatia, with the final of the trio finally bringing a red.