Germany 2006: The interviews
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As you might expect, there was no shortage of predictions, reactions, comment and analysis at the 2006 FIFA World Cup™.

For this summer's festival of football, tracked down the biggest names in the game, from legends like Michel Platini and Pele to the stars of the finals themselves, and sought out their opinions on the big event.

Over the course of the tournament, more than 50 of the biggest names in the game - including Gary Lineker, Jorge Valdano, Ronaldinho, Juan Riquelme, Didier Drogba, Lukas Podolski, Ronaldo, Andriy Shevchenko, Raymond Domenech and Rafael Marquez - shared their thoughts with on events in Germany. Read on for a selection of the best quotes they gave us.

Michel Platini (FRA), 9 July 2006
I don't think France are the best team in the world, but they are very difficult to beat, and especially so in a Cup competition. Exactly the same goes for Italy, and it's no coincidence that these two sides are in the Final.

Gary Lineker (ENG), 7 July 2006
(Miroslav) Klose has looked sharp, as he did in the previous World Cup. I think he's a classic poacher, his movement in the box is really good and he is a clinical finisher when he gets the chance. He's got a terrific record at international level and you can see why. The important thing is he's taken it into a big tournament where so many others have failed.

Raymond Domenech (FRA), 7 July 2006
Don't go thinking that I'm on some sort of personal revenge mission. I don't look at it like that and I've never held a grudge against anyone. I still think I've done what needed doing, and perhaps the criticism was as well-founded as my own belief in this side.

Lukas Podolski (GER), 7 July 2006
It's just great to win an award like this at the biggest tournament in the world. I want to thank everyone who voted for me and of course the other guys in the squad. My winning the award was all down to the team. Of course, it's not quite as good as winning the whole tournament though.

Alessandro Del Piero (ITA), 3 July 2006
Germany start as favourites (for the semi-final), but if we really play as a team, as we know we can, then we can win. It's too early to say whether this World Cup has been a success or not for me personally. Let's wait until it's all over.

Jorge Valdano (ARG), 3 July 2006
I just think we saw very little of Lionel Messi. Even so, it was enough to realise that he's a player with something that sets him apart from the rest we've seen in Germany. He's also prepared to go out and take risks, all that in a World Cup where nobody wants to gamble.

Andriy Shevchenko (UKR), 26 June 2006
Qualifying for the finals themselves was very tough, but now we're enjoying every minute of our time here. Apart from the national team, the domestic league and the country's youth sides will also benefit from this World Cup. We know that all of Ukraine are supporting us. Being part of a sporting occasion of this magnitude and doing so well at it has helped bring the people together.

Ronaldinho (BRA), 25 June 2006
I'm not performing to the best of my ability right now, but I am improving. We all need to be patient. The World Cup is a marathon not a sprint. I'm playing more centrally and deeper so it means I have less impact in the final third. At Barcelona I can go by one man and have a chance to shoot, but in my position for Brazil beating two or even three players does not automatically mean I have a sight of goal.

Lee Young-Pyo (KOR), 24 June 2006
We might have had too many young players in the team here in Germany, and this can also be a negative thing. Sure, they run hard and give everything they have but they can also lack those things that only come with experience. So for us, I think it was a double-edged sword.

Juan Riquelme (ARG), 23 June 2006
As long as I'm playing I'm happy, whether it be for Argentina or my club. In fact, every time I run out onto a football pitch I feel happy. It's all I need."

Rafael Marquez (MEX), 22 June 2006
I had a terrible time of it against Portugal and made a lot of mistakes early on. Then I tried to raise my game, but I lost my concentration. It just wasn't my day. Now, I have to stay calm. These things happen in football, as no one is perfect. The most important thing is that the team are through to the next round.

Pele (BRA), 22 June 2006
I wouldn't be upset if (Theo) Walcott became the youngest-ever goalscorer at a FIFA World Cup, as long as Brazil ended up as world champions. Back in 1958, I scored a few goals and Brazil won the Trophy. I wouldn't like it if he scored and England ended up winning it.

Julio Caceres (PAR), 21 June 2006
We want to apologise to the fans because hopes were very high when we qualified. We really thought we were going to go further than Paraguay have ever gone before, but we've ended up making our earliest-ever exit.

Dwight Yorke (TRI), 18 June 2006
My legs don't go as fast as they used to. I just felt that it would be better to play in midfield than as a centre-forward, although I do know I can still do a job up there. I enjoy passing the ball and creating chances for others in the team, so it's a good fit.

Pauleta (POR), 16 June 2006
"The favourites are the same as always: Brazil, Italy, Argentina and Germany. As for Portugal, for now we're just thinking about reaching the Round of 16. However, if we get that far, anything can happen.

Didier Drogba (CIV), 16 June 2006
At the time, the goal (against Argentina) meant nothing to me. It's what I call a 'meaningless' goal because it didn't change the outcome. Having said that, it was a historic goal for Ivorian football, as it was our first at the World Cup finals. For that reason I'm delighted. It's important to leave your mark.

Jairzinho (BRA), 13 June 2006
To be honest, I'm very concerned about how Brazil will perorm at this World Cup. I know (Mario) Zagallo and (Carlos Alberto) Parreira well, but I think we're making it difficult for ourselves to win our sixth title. There are a few players in the starting line-up who are not at their best right now.

Mario Kempes (ARG), 12 June 2006
People say Ronaldo's overweight, but fat or thin, give him the ball and in four yards he's gained a yard on you. He's so quick in the area and one of the most powerful forwards in the game. I expect great things from him. He's just a few goals away from beating Gerd Muller's record.

Ronaldo (BRA), 11 June 2006
Individual records have to take a back seat here. My main objective is to win the World Cup. Of course, I'll be delighted if I do break Müller's record (as overall top scorer), but it's not my number one priority.

Horacio Elizondo (ARG), 8 June 2006
Just like the players, the referee tries to envisage the game in his head and imagine the different situations that might arise: a nice, easy game or a hot-tempered one, a penalty or a card or two. Players hope that things happen in a game, whereas your average referees tries to visualise a game without problems. You need to be focused, have no pre-conceived ideas, keep a clear head and believe in your own abilities.

Andoni Zubizarreta (ESP), 4 June 2006
Who are my favourites for the title? Brazil without a doubt. When a team is such clear favourites, though, it's always difficult to translate that out on the pitch. But they've certainly got the most complete team. Having said that, Italy also look to be in really good form.