Things you didn't know about the Final
For only the seventh time in 18 editions of the FIFA World Cup, the 2006 Final will not feature a South American team. This breaks a sequence of five successive deciding matches involving either Brazil or Argentina. The last all-European Final was back in 1982, with Italy defeating West Germany. The Finals in 1934, 1938, 1954, 1966, and 1974 are the others that were contested by two sides from the Old Continent.
Also, today's showpiece is one of just five Finals that has not involved either Brazil or Germany. The Finals of 1930, 1934, 1938 and 1978 are the others.
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* Horacio Elizondo will become the first Argentinian official to referee a FIFA World Cup Final and only the third South American to be given the honour. Elizondo emulates the Brazilians Arnaldo Coelho and Romualdo Arppi Filho, who took charge of the 1982 and 1986 Finals respectively. The 42-year-old is also the first to referee both the inaugural match and the Final and today's game is his fifth at the tournament. He also officiated in the Germany v Costa Rica, Czech Republic v Ghana, Switzerland v Korea Republic and England v Portugal fixtures.
* Pele, Daniel Passarella, Cafu and Ronaldo the list of players to have won non-consecutive FIFA World Cups is currently exclusive to South Americans. However, six Frenchman go into tonight's 2006 Final against Italy hoping to change this statistic.
Fabien Barthez, Lilian Thuram, Patrick Vieira, Zinedine Zidane, David Trezeguet and Thierry Henry were all members of Aime Jacquet's triumphant cast of 1998, and after experiencing the misery of first-round elimination four years ago, they are determined to revel in the euphoria of a second world crown. It would be quite an achievement considering that eight years ago, Thuram and Zidane were both 26, while Barthez was one year their senior.
Twenty-one players have become multiple FIFA World Cup winners, but only the South American quartet managed the feat in non-consecutive tournaments. Brazilian icon Pele was the first. He collected his first winner's medal in 1958, another in 1962, and his third gold in 1970. He was succeeded by Daniel Passarella, who captained Argentina's 1978 winners before picking up a medal as a non-playing member of Carlos Bilardo's 1986 squad. Cafu and Ronaldo both achieved the distinction thanks to Brazil's successes in the 1994 and 2002 tournaments.
Can France's veterans of 1998 now add a European flavour to the group of players that have won non-consecutive FIFA World Cups? We will know the answer soon enough.