As soon as the curtain falls on a FIFA World Cup, thoughts inevitably turn towards the next edition. Germany 2006 was no exception, and once the lights went out at the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, lovers of the beautiful game everywhere started to dream about South Africa in four years time. One year down the line, 12 months to the day since Italy's night of triumph, FIFA.com looks back at how some of the 2006 Final's main protagonists have been faring since.
To the victor go the spoils. For Fabio Cannavaro, captain of the victorious Squadra Azzurra, the 2006/2007 season was to prove another success. A few weeks after lifting the FIFA World Cup Trophy, the former Juventus defender completed a move to Spanish giants Real Madrid. Recruited by compatriot Fabio Capello, Cannavaro brought experience and stability to the defence of a Merengue side which last won a league title three years ago. By the end of his maiden season, the Italian had helped end that unhappy sequence, as the capital club secured their 30 thLa Liga title.
"I owe it to my team-mates"
Cannavaro's performances for Juventus and the Italian national side also saw him voted FIFA World Player of the Year and claim the Ballon d'Or. The awards were the icing on the cake in a year during which the 33-year-old Neapolitan enjoyed almost every success possible.
"It's been an incredible year. I won an awful lot this season and it will be very difficult to match that in future," Cannavaro admitted to FIFA.com during the FIFA World Player of the Year 2006 award ceremony. "The highlight has to be the moment I lifted the World Cup Trophy, being carried on the shoulders of my team-mates. I feel very lucky to have experienced that, and I owe it to all of them."
By "them" he is of course referring to the likes of Alessandro Nesta, Massimo Oddo, Andrea Pirlo, Gennaro Gattuso, Filippo Inzaghi and Alberto Gilardino, all of whom play their club football for AC Milan, and who went on to cap their Germany 2006 success by winning Europe's top club prize. Having negotiated the third qualifying round and the group stage of the UEFA Champions League, the Rossoneri knocked out Celtic, Bayern Munich and Manchester United on their way to the final against Liverpool, with the incentive of avenging their defeat against the same team two years ago. As he has had a habit of doing for so many years now, Superpippo Inzaghi came good when it mattered most, scoring a double that enabled the Milan club to secure its seventh title in the elite competition.
The year of Materazzi
Staying in Milan, two more members of the FIFA World Cup-winning squad plied their club trade in the colours of Inter in 2006/2007, who enjoyed a record-breaking season. Fabio Grosso, scorer of the decisive spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out in Berlin last July, shone on the left side of defence for the Nerazzurri, as they went through the whole league campaign with just one defeat.
However, the soul of the current Inter side is their captain Marco Materazzi. 'The Matrix' has been transformed into a national icon as a result of his equalising goal against France in the FIFA World Cup Final last summer. And he went on to enjoy an exceptional season at the heart of Inter's defence, contributing 10 Serie A goals to their 15th Scudetto-winning campaign. The pick of the bunch came from a magnificent scissor kick against Messina. His strength and consistency played a major part in a season during which Inter amassed an unprecedented 97 points in Serie A, and clocked up a record run of 17 consecutive wins. Symbolically, it was Materazzi's double against Siena on 22 April 2007 that confirmed Inter as champions.
While for Italy's tifosi, the name of Materazzi is inextricably linked with the sweet scent of victory, it evokes a rather different memory in the minds of French supporters. It was effectively the defender's altercation with Zinedine Zidane that brought Zizou's career to an abrupt end. The former Real Madrid playmaker had enjoyed an impressive tournament and hoped to provide his 18-year professional playing career with the perfect final flourish by lifting the Trophy for a second time.
It appeared that the Bleus captain was likely to get his wish after pulling off an audacious Panenka-style penalty kick that deceived Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon and put France into the lead. History decreed that it was not to be however, and the last thing the French wizard saw as he trundled off the pitch in Berlin was not the FIFA World Cup Trophy, but the red card brandished in his direction by Argentinian referee Horacio Elizondo.
It was also the last major international competition for the man in black himself, and he bowed out in style, making FIFA World Cup history by becoming the first referee to officiate at both the Opening Match and the Final. After blowing for full-time on his refereeing career, in May 2007 Elizondo made the move into politics and now serves under his country's Secretary of State for Sport.
Les Bleus flourish in the first year 'AZ' (After
For Zizou, his first year of retirement has been anything but calm and uneventful. The France 1998 winner has been travelling the world, devoting his energies to a number of charitable projects. Most recently, he was to be found in Indonesia, where the former Bordeaux and Juventus favourite is currently serving as ambassador for children's programmes on behalf of the Danone Foundation. "I want to put my gifts and everything I've been able to learn during my career to good use for the benefit of others, especially younger people," said Zidane on his arrival in Jakarta, where he was officially welcomed by Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Despite the exit of their grand master, France have managed to preserve the verve and momentum that took them all the way to the Germany 2006 Final. Still able to call on the experience of Lilian Thuram, Claude Makelele and Patrick Vieira, and bolstered by the growing influence of more recent talents such as Franck Ribery, Eric Abidal and Florent Malouda, head coach Raymond Domenech has also injected new blood with some success.
Newcomers Karim Benzema, Lassana Diarra and Samir Nasri have all since justified the hopes placed in them, as has Nicolas Anelka since his restoration to the squad. In 11 games played since their defeat in Berlin a year ago, the French national team have notched up nine wins and suffered just two defeats.
Moreover, LesBleus managed to exact revenge over their Italian nemesis, securing a 3-1 victory at the Stade de France in September 2006 in UEFA EURO 2008 qualifying. Though, of course, there is not a single French player or supporter who would not willingly swap that result for a similar one 12 months ago in Berlin.
As it is, for the last year, the FIFA World Cup Trophy has resided not in France, but in Italy. And that is where it will remain for the next three years at least...