And now the 2006 World cup held in Germany. The 18th World Cup was the least I had seen of a World Cup tournament since I was old enough to star watching the matches live, ie. from 1990 onwards. The reason is simple enough, work stood in the way and especially when I had a mix of day and night shifts. Still I did manage to watch quite a few games.
Eight nations qualified for the finals for the first time: Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Czech Republic, Ghana, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine, and Serbia and Montenegro. Czech Republic and Ukraine were making their first appearance as independent nations, but had previously been represented as part of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union respectively; Serbia and Montenegro had competed as Yugoslavia in 1998, as well as making up part of Yugoslav teams from 1930 to 1990. Hosts Germany started well winning all 3 of their group stage matches and Ecuador joined them in the knock out stages. England & Sweden scrapped their way through in their group, while old rivals the Netherlands & Argentina had 7 points each in their group. Portugal were a strong team and got 9 points while Italy & Ghana came out of group E. Group F saw a strong Brazilian finish with 9 points joined by the Aussies in the round of 16. The Swiss finished above France while Spain and Ukraine qualified from the final group.
The knockout stages went like this Germany beat Sweden and faced Argentina in the quarters and won on penalties to reach the semis. Italy beat the Aussies and then took care of Ukraine, while Portugal beat the Dutch and then England. France beat Spain and then Brazil to make it to the semis. A showdown was set but Germany fell 2-0 to Italy while France beat Portugal by a solitary goal to setup a clash of big teams in the final. At the end of the regulation 90 minutes, the score was still level at 1–1, and the match was forced into extra time. Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a potentially game-saving save in extra time when he tipped a Zidane header over the crossbar. Controversy ensued near the end of extra time, when Zidane head-butted Materazzi in the chest in an off-the-ball incident in which the Italian abused the Frenchman’s family and was sent off. Extra time produced no further goals and a penalty shootout followed, which Italy won 5–3. Germany beat Portugal 3-1 for 3rd place to cap off a successful World cup. Miroslav Klose with 5 goals won the golden boot.