Italian ecstasy in Berlin

9 Jul 2021
  • 15 years ago today Italy conquered the FIFA World Cup

  • Buffon, Cannavaro, Gattuso, Pirlo and Totti had superb campaign

  • FIFA.com delivers anecdotes, quotes and stats on the triumph

Italy had crashed to Korea Republic in the Round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup™ in 2002. They’d finished beneath Sweden and Denmark en route to a group-stage exit at UEFA EURO 2004. Germany 2006, they said, would belong to a Brazilian dream team featuring Ronaldinho, Kaka, Ronaldo and Adriano. If not, Argentina, England and the hosts would be there to capitalise. Fifteen years ago today, however, Marcello Lippi’s charges did what very few foresaw: put a fourth gold star on their blue shirt.

I DON’T FEEL PRESSURE. I SPENT THE AFTERNOON IN BERLIN SLEEPING AND PLAYING THE PLAYSTATION. IN THE EVENING, I WENT OUT AND WON THE WORLD CUP.

Andrea Pirlo

The unlikely hero

In 2004, Fabio Grosso was playing for Perugia in Serie B and wasn’t among the seven left-backs called up by Italy that calendar year. At Germany 2006 he wasn’t just a member of Lippi’s squad, but a key one. Grosso won the penalty for Francesco Totti’s 11th-hour winner in the Round of 16, and then dispatched a sumptuous curler to snap the deadlock in the 119th minute of the semi-final, screaming "Non ci credo!" (I don't believe it!) as he whizzed away in delirious disbelief. When the Final went to penalties, knowing he wasn’t one of Italy’s assigned takers, the Romano thought he’d kicked his last ball at the tournament. Then Lippi told him he was taking one – and the fifth! “I was astonished,” recalled Grosso. “Why me?” The last spot-kick he had taken, indeed, was five years earlier in Italy’s fourth tier. Grosso nevertheless sent Fabien Barthez the wrong was with aplomb to clinch Italy the crown.

The mother of underdogs

No nation has won the World Cup as heavier outsider than Italy in 2006 since odds began being monitored in 1970). Italy’s starting price was an average of 10/1 and as high as 16/1. Brazil were the favourites, followed by Argentina, Germany, England and the Netherlands.

Off with the locks

Massimo Oddo was a qualified barber who cut most of his team-mates’ hair during the tournament. Mauro Camoranesi would not let the right-back at his treasured locks, but promised that if Italy won it he would allow his ponytail to be chopped. After the Azzurri players had lifted the Trophy, they all congregated enthusiastically around a chair placed on the penalty spot – the same one from which Fabio Grosso had struck the winning kick – to witness the fall of the ponytail.

I GET MORE EMOTIONAL NOW WATCHING IT THAN I DID WHEN I WAS ON THE PITCH. EVEN NOW, WHEN I WATCH FABIO TAKE THAT PENALTY, I THINK TO MYSELF, ‘I HOPE HE DOESN’T MISS IT.’ THESE ARE MOMENTS THAT CHANGE THE STORY OF A GAME, A WORLD CUP AND A LIFE.

Fabio Cannavaro

Stats

  • Francesco Totti was the leading assister at Germany 2006 (four). Andrea Pirlo was joint-second alongside Luis Figo, Juan Roman Riquelme and Bastian Schweinsteiger.

  • Gennaro Gattuso won 47 tackles at Germany 2006 – 11 more than his closest challengers, Eric Abidal and Patrick Vieira.

  • A Gigi Buffon-protected Italy conceded just two goals – a joint-low for a triumphant team alongside France of 1998 and Spain of 2010.

  • Ten players scored for Italy in Germany – a record for a World Cup they share with France’s class of ’82. Pirlo, Iaquinta, Gilardino, Materazzi, Inzaghi, Totti, Zambrotta, Toni, Grosso and Del Piero together got Gli Azzurri’s 12 goals. Toni and Materazzi got two goals apiece – only one other triumphant team has had a leading scorer with fewer than four goals: France, for whom Thierry Henry netted thrice, in 1998.

A medal, a coffin and a toothbrush

Pietro Lombardi was Italy’s beloved kitman at Germany 2006. Then 82, he was renowned for staying up late to clean every player’s boots and was nicknamed ‘Spazzolino’ (Toothbrush) because of how spotless he left them. He even came to a reporter’s aid when the ecstatic players drenched her in champagne after lifting the Trophy. When Lombardi died in 2016, Daniele De Rossi attended the funeral and left his World Cup winner’s medal in his coffin.