Almost 800 days have passed since that magical night in Berlin's Olympiastadion on 9 July 2006. Then, after overcoming France on penalties in an enthralling FIFA World Cup™ Final, Italy were crowned kings of the sport for a fourth time.
Just days before the Azzurri kick off their bid to reach South Africa 2010, FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter, accompanied by a FIFA delegation including Secretary General Jerome Valcke, visited the Italian Football Association (FIGC) Technical Centre in Coverciano to bestow a special accolade upon their hosts.
The prestigious FIFA World Champions Badge was presented for the first time, and Italy will wear it on their jerseys for a maiden time during Saturday's opening qualifier against Cyprus in Larnaca, where they will be guided by the talismanic Marcello Lippi. The 60-year-old masterminded their Germany 2006 triumph and, after a two-year hiatus, is back in the hot-seat.
The Italian players will proudly display the badge on their chests, just above their shirt numbers and below the FIGC emblem. The traditional blue home shirt will feature a white badge with the FIFA World Cup Trophy embroidered in gold, while the white away jersey will be decorated by a gold badge with a white Trophy.
Following a brief yet rousing ceremony, President Blatter handed the FIFA World Cup Trophy to Fabio Cannavaro - a gesture which was initially suggested by the Italian captain himself. The centre-back received the Trophy in the presence of every member of the Germany 2006-winning squad, and to a standing ovation from the audience.
Among the guests in attendance were Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) president and ambassador for Italian sport, Gianni Petrucci, together with FIGC president Giancarlo Abete, who opened the ceremony with some simple yet perceptive insight. "The Technical Centre in which we are gathered today will very soon be celebrating its 50th year in existence," he explained. "This place is characterised by a competitive and sporting dimension which this ceremony expresses on the grandest scale.
"The award which we are receiving today from FIFA is a point of arrival, but also a point of departure. A point of arrival because it serves to commemorate the many moments of joy that Italian football has given to its country and to its people. A point of departure because henceforth our national shirt, thanks to FIFA, will further underline the message that we are the champions of the world. We have always felt at home at the World Cup and from Saturday we will be working hard to return to that place where we feel so at ease."
Blatter said: "More than 30 years ago I was here among the hills of Florence, in this Technical Centre, even before most of the footballers standing before me were born. I am here to represent the summit and the grassroots of football, a sport which is a school of life capable of offering so many children hope and excitement in a complex world.
"Today is an important day for FIFA, as it is for the Italian team, because from this moment forth we wish to identify the champions of the world with a badge.
Winning the World Cup is the highest achievement in football and we believe that such an achievement deserves special recognition
"Italy are the first national team to enjoy this privilege and deservedly so, because they have won the title on no less than four occasions. They will wear the badge until 2010 and, although I must naturally remain neutral, I am sure that with this symbol on their chests the Italian lads will have an even greater incentive to win the next Trophy and retain the privilege they have earned."
At the end of a moving film montage, which recalled the most spectacular moments from Germany 2006, Marcello Lippi addressed the congregation. "In the last two years I have taken a break from coaching and so have been able to see the images of our triumph in Germany hundreds of times over, and each time they move me," he said.
"Our hope is not so much to win the World Cup again, but to create the conditions whereby we may relive the same emotions as before, because only then will we once more be able to take full satisfaction from it. This small badge must serve as a guide and an incentive to do well, but we must not simply stand around admiring it."
Cannavaro added: "
Germany was a fantastic experience which changed the life of everyone who was part of that group
. I remember the first day, when the boss told us we had to live a fairy tale and dream about meeting Brazil in the Final. The only thing he got wrong was the name of our eventual opponents - everything else went just like we dreamed it would!"
The ceremony was brought to a close by Blatter, who unveiled Italy's official new jersey with the badge at its centre. The FIGC then presented him with his own honorary shirt, emblazoned with the No9. The No10 strip was, instead, reserved for CONI president Gianni Petrucci. Finally, FIFA handed the FIGC a pennant representing an oversized version of the FIFA World Champions Badge.