Germany 2006 kicked off 15 years ago today
Italy ultimately crowned champions for the fourth time
The hosts’ 'summer fairytale' had an unhappy ending in the semi-final
Between 9 June and 9 July 2006, the whole of Germany experienced an exceptional four weeks that was, as the tournament slogan put it, 'a time to make friends'. In a break from normal German weather conditions, the sun shone continually throughout – a truly astonishing phenomenon befitting a Sommermarchen (summer fairytale).
The 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™ celebrates its 15-year anniversary this month. The tournament provided the setting for many memorable moments that are now indelibly written in the history books. How much can you still remember when you think back to Germany 2006?
General view of a firework display as the Italian players and coaching staff celebrate with the FIFA World Cup trophy following their victory in a penalty shootout in the Final. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
Fans arrive at the FIFA World Cup Stadium in Munich on 9 June to watch the opening game of the 2006 FIFA World Cup between Germany and Costa Rice. The hosts beat Los Ticos 4-2.The six-goal opener was the most amount of goals scored in a single game at the tournament, sharing the honours with one other match - Argentina’s 6-0 win over Serbia and Montenegro on 16 June.
One of the most unforgettable images of Germany 2006 is that of Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro proudly hoisting the FIFA World Cup Trophy into the night sky over Berlin’s Olympiastadion. After an action-packed Final full of emotion and drama, the Azzurri won 5-3 on penalties against France.
Cannavaro still has vivid memories of of the tournament. The former defender and FIFA World Player of the Year for 2006 looked back at Italy’s semi-final win over the hosts, the key moments in an enthralling Final and becoming world champions.
One image in particular springs to the mind of every football fan when Germany 2006 is mentioned: Zinedine Zidane’s moment of madness in Berlin, when France’s vastly experienced playmaker let emotion get the better of him and headbutted Marco Materazzi.
"It was not pretty," the French superstar later admitted. "I ask for forgiveness from the kids who saw it."
After seeing red for his headbutt, Zidane ended his career with a long and lonely walk to the dressing room, poignantly passing by a trophy that, without him, Les Bleus proved powerless to reclaim.
Another man who made history that night was Argentinian Horacio Elizondo – the first, and so far only, referee to officiate both the Opening Match and the Final at a World Cup.
"When you’re young you dream about the things you’d like to do, but then life takes you in other directions," said the former referee, who knew at the age of 15 that he was not going to make it as a professional footballer. "I realised that there were a lot of young players like me, and that it was going to be very difficult to make it to the first division."
He chose instead to devote his energies to athletics, with his love for sport in general eventually leading him to become a PE teacher. However, refereeing allowed him to fulfil the dreams he harboured as a child, albeit by an alternative route: "I achieved my objective not by becoming a player or an Olympic athlete but a referee – first at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens and then at the 2006 World Cup in Germany."
After the World Cup kicked off in their homeland, Germany embarked on a summer fairytale that they hoped would carry them all the way to the Final and their fourth World Cup triumph. Although Italy made a less emphatic start to the tournament, they proved to be a robust side who navigated their way to the last four flawlessly. The Azzurri countered the attractive attacking football of Jurgen Klinsmann’s side with staunch defending, a strategy that steered them to a 2-0 victory after extra-time in a thrilling and intense encounter.
The Opening Match of Germany 2006 is one that Costa Rica legend Paulo Wanchope is unlikely to ever forget. Making their third appearance at a World Cup, Los Ticos had the honour of kicking off the biggest footballing party of the year when they faced hosts Germany in the Opening Match in Munich.
Although Jurgen Klinsmann’s charges ultimately celebrated a 4-2 win, Costa Rica and Wanchope delivered a spirited performance. The former striker fondly recalled the brace he scored and talks about the important place that this match holds in the hearts of Costa Rican football fans.
The Squadra Azzurra were the first national team to receive the FIFA World Champions Badge. Since then, every winner of the FIFA World Cup has been presented with this badge, which they can wear on their shirts until the next global finals. It features an image of the World Cup Trophy created by Italian sculptor Silvio Gazzaniga in 1974. A similar badge for the winners of the FIFA Club World Cup™ was first presented to AC Milan, the winners of the 2007 tournament.