World Cup Archives—Part VII: From the Azzurri’s Bittersweet Victory to Africa’s First World Cup (Germany 2006 and South Africa 2010)

With the 2014 World Cup kicking-off in less than one week’s time, Melosport delivers the final instalment in the seven-part World Cup Archive series


2006 Germany World Cup

After its voyage into the relative unknown, the World Cup returned to Europe in the ultra-safe hands of Germany. Nelson Mandela’s South Africa had been widely tipped to become hosts but FIFA made the Africans wait another four years in a tense vote.

The organisation of the 2006 World Cup was typically German—reliable and precise. The hosts delivered high-tech stadia, first-rate transport links and an abundance of hospitality.

Berlin's Olympiastadion would host the 2006 WC Final

Berlin’s Olympiastadion would host the 2006 WC Final

The single biggest innovation at this World Cup was that the holders had to earn the right to defend their trophy via qualification—the first occurrence of this since 1934.

Eight nations made their World Cup debut—Angola, Ivory Coast, Czech Republic (formerly represented as Czechoslovakia), Ghana, Togo, Trinidad and Tobago, Ukraine (formerly USSR) and Serbia and Montenegro (formerly Yugoslavia).

In stark contrast to the previous tournament, there were no surprises in the group stage as the traditional heavyweights all progressed to the knock-out stages.

Despite reaching the 2002 World Cup Final, the German national team was in a state of disarray. Rudi Voller had resigned as coach following Die Mannschaft’s first round exit at Euro 2004 and so Germany were searching for their third manager in six years—compared to six managers during the preceding 75 years.

Klinsmann was the man tasked with making Germany a force once more

Klinsmann was the man tasked with making Germany a force once more

The German Football Association turned to Jurgen Klinsmann, with the more experienced Joachim Low selected as his assistant. The next two years were rocky. A lack of playing talent was bemoaned by the media, as was Klinsmann’s decision to continue living in the United States despite his new position.

The pessimism began to diminish once the hosts kicked-off the tournament with a hard-fought 4-2 win over Costa Rica. A small flame turned into a fire of expectation as one win eventually became three—the Germans topped their group finishing ahead of Ecuador and next-door neighbours Poland.

England found themselves under-performing on the pitch and overwhelmed off it as the WAGs stole the limelight. However two wins against Paraguay and Trinidad & Tobago were enough to guarantee top spot.

Group C was nicknamed as the Group of Death but Holland and Argentina progressed to the knock-out rounds—at the expense of the Ivory Coast and Serbia Montenegro. La Albeste finished top on goal difference after they hammered Serbia 6-0. The pick of the half-dozen was a magnificent team goal which consisted of 24 passes and was finished by Esteban Cambiasso.

Despite being eliminated Didier Drogba’s Ivory Coast accounted themselves well, which was emphasised by their comeback 3-2 win against the Serbs after being 0-2 down.

Italy started strongly out but even two wins (over Ghana and the Czechs) could not deflect criticism from their own press following a bad-tempered 1-1 draw with USA—Daniele De Rossi was sent-off, as was Pablo Mastroeni and Eddie Pope for the Americans.

Nevertheless, the Azzurri crucially finished top of their group meaning they would theoretically face a weaker opponent in the last 16 than runners-up Ghana. Asamoah Gyan spearheaded the Africans wins over the USA and Czech Republic, resulting in the Black Stars being the only African representatives in the last 16.

A bloated Ronaldo defied his critics by scoring twice and making an assist during the group games as Brazil topped their group with a 100 percent record.

A bloated Ronaldo still caused opposition defences problems in Germany

A bloated Ronaldo still caused opposition defences problems in Germany

Guus Hiddink had another World Cup taster, this time with Australia, who made their first World Cup finals appearance since 1974 after they beat Uruguay in the play-offs. The Socceroos caused a stir as they finished runners-up to Brazil, after dramatic late goals to beat Japan and garner an invaluable point against Croatia.

During the last game against Croatia, English referee Graham Poll issued three yellow cards to Australian-born Croat Josip Simunic. Poll’s footballing faux pas meant he joined Croatia on the sidelines soon after.

Following on from their appalling 2002 tournament, the French started tentatively to the extent they needed to win their last group game to progress, where they beat Togo 2-0. A well-marshalled Switzerland finished top of the group but were eliminated in the second round (against Ukraine on penalties) without conceding a single goal in the entire tournament.

Hotshot Gyan received his marching orders against the Selecao in the last 16 encounter during Ghana’s 3-0 defeat. Ronaldo commenced the scoring in the fifth minute to become the World Cup’s highest overall goalscorer with 15 goals—surpassing the record set by Germany’s Gerd Muller.

Lukas Podolski scored two early goals for the hosts as they triumphed 2-0 over Sweden (Henrik Larsson missed a penalty for the Swedes) which was watched by an estimated audience of 750,000 at Berlin’s historic Brandenburg Gate.

The six remaining second-round matches were all tight and few were without drama.

One of the tournament’s favourites, Spain, crashed out to a resurgent France. With Zinedine Zidane deciding to call time on his career after the World Cup, his polished performance culminated with the final killer goal as Les Bleus ran out 3-1 winners.

Van Bronckhorst and Deco sit side by side after their sendings-off

Van Bronckhorst and Deco sit side by side after their dismissals

Portugal beat Holland 1-0 in an irascible encounter. Both sides were reduced to nine men thanks to the substantial caution count of 16.

Australia’s fairy tale tournament came to an end as they pushed the Italians into extra-time where Francesco Totti scored a questionable penalty, and England laboured to beat Ecuador in a non-eventful match.

Another World Cup classic goal was scored by Argentina, this time against Mexico. Maxi Rodriguez won the match in extra-time with a thunderbolt to send the Argentines through to a quarter-final meeting with the Germans.

The hosts won the match—courtesy of their record fourth World Cup penalty-shoot out win—after their match ended 1-1. The Argentine media lamented coach Jose Pekerman’s decision to substitute his chief playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme in preparation of the next round when Argentina were 1-0 up. Eventual golden boot winner Miroslav Klose equalised eight minutes later to cancel out Roberto Ayala’s opener and push the game into extra-time.

Ayala himself missed from the spot, as did Cambiasso, to send the ecstatic hosts through to the semi-finals.

In a re-run of the 1998 World Cup Final, Brazil continued their tale of recent woe against the French as a spell-binding Zidane effortlessly toyed with the opposition and he provided the assist for Thierry Henry to score the winner in Frankfurt.

Italy comfortably beat the Ukraine 3-0, while 10-man England lost to Portugal on penalties for the second successive major tournament (following the Euro 2004 quarter-finals).

For the first time in 24 years, the semi-finals were an all-European affair.

Zidane was pivotal again in the semi-finals as his first-half penalty was enough to beat Portugal and earn a second World Cup Final in three tournaments for Les Bleus.

Meanwhile, Germany lost to their World Cup bogey team Italy, continuing Die Mannschaft’s unwanted trend of having never beaten the Azzurri in a major tournament.

Penalties loomed in an entertaining 0-0 encounter until Italian full-back Fabio Grosso scored in the last-minute of extra-time. As the Germans desperately pushed for an equaliser, Alessandro Del Piero became executioner to finish a fastidious counter attack to book Italy’s berth in Berlin.

The romanticism was undeniable. The World Cup Final was the final competitive match for Zidane—the world’s best player during the 2000s.

He converted an audacious fifth minute penalty to open the scoring—his third goal of the tournament to set France on their way. The goal ignited the Italians to play with purpose and soon replied courtesy of a Marco Materazzi header from a deadly set-piece from Andrea Pirlo.

The match moved into extra-time and Zidane almost won it with a bullet header, but was thwarted by the ever-reliable Gianluigi Buffon.

Then the goal scorers clashed, resulting in the mercurial Frenchman headbutting Materazzi in the chest. The referee had little choice but to give Zidane a red card. From moment to another, Zidane went from almost becoming immortal (after almost winning a second World Cup Les Bleus) to villain as he marched down the tunnel in disgrace.

Zidane later justified his action as he claimed Materazzi had insulted his mother, to which Materazzi replied:

“I was tugging his shirt, he said to me ‘if you want my shirt so much I’ll give it to you afterwards,’ I answered that I’d prefer his sister. It’s not a particularly nice thing to say, I recognise that. But loads of players say worse things.”—Materazzi’s version of events

The match went to penalties and Italy, who had a very poor shoot-out record prior to the 2006 Final, held their nerve to score all five while David Trezeguet, France’s Juventus striker, missed for the French—resulting in the Azzurri’s fourth World Championship.

After the scandal of Calciopoli had rocked Serie A, Italy’s hard-fought World Cup triumph was a bittersweet victory.

Key Facts

  • Teams: 32
  • Winner: Italy
  • Runner-up: France
  • Goals: 147 in 64 games (average 2.3 per match)
  • Golden Boot: Miroslav Klose (Germany)—5 goals in 7 matches


2010 South Africa World Cup

South Africa's official world cup poster

South Africa’s official world cup poster

After missing out in 2006, Africa finally hosted its first World Cup. Only Slovakia made its debut in 2010 but as per the Czech Republic in 2006, they had formerly been represented as Czechoslovakia.

Croatia missed out, as did Euro 2008 semi-finalists Russia and Turkey. Sweden, Poland and Ecuador also failed to make the cut.

France beat the Republic of Ireland in a play-off to qualify for the finals. The decisive goal was assisted by Thierry Henry’s hand, not once but twice. The Irish Football Association were understandably livid but their calls for a rematch fell on deaf ears.

The 2010 World Cup was characterised by the sounds of vuvuzelas in the stands. Its novelty was brief as TV audiences and visiting fans quickly lamented the constant droning noise.

Vuvuzelas split opinion during the 2010 World Cup

Vuvuzelas split opinion during the 2010 World Cup

The home side were drawn in a tough group, alongside France, Uruguay and Mexico. The French demonstrated their yo-yo-like qualities once more as the 2006 finalists lost to Mexico and South Africa in their group.

The French camp was riddled with a poor attitude which culminated in Nicolas Anelka’s foul-mouthed half-time tirade aimed at coach Raymond Domenech during the Mexico match. Anelka, who refused to apologise, was promptly sent home.

Once France crashed out Laurent Blanc was appointed Les Bleus coach, and at his request all 23 players who represented their country in South Africa were suspended for the first game post-World Cup.

Anelka was sent home from the World Cup following his tirade at coach Domenech

Anelka was sent home from the World Cup following his tirade at coach Domenech

Uruguay finished top of the group thanks to their potent front line containing the seasoned Diego Forlan, accompanied by relative youngsters Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani. Mexico’s defeat of France assured El Tricolor of second place.

Despite Argentina’s main man Lionel Messi inheriting the sacred number 10 shirt, it was Gonzalo Higuain who grabbed the limelight with a group stage hat-trick as La Albiceleste took no prisoners in sweeping aside Nigeria, Greece and South Korea.  South Korea’s win over Greece was decisive as the Asians progressed to the knock-out rounds.

Gonzalo Higuain was Argentina's most potent threat at the 2010 finals

Gonzalo Higuain was Argentina’s most potent threat at the 2010 finals

England’s much hyped side struggled to make it as far as the last 16. Fabio Capello’s men laboured to draws against USA and Algeria. An all-or-nothing slim victory over Slovenia meant progression as group runners-up. In scoring more goals the US finished top.

Australia threatened to cause another stir in 2010 whilst paired with Germany, Ghana and Serbia. After a heavy 4-0 opening defeat to the much-fancied Germans, a draw with Ghana and a win over Serbia meant the Socceroos were only just edged out by Ghana—on goal difference.

Asamoah Gyan, again, spearheaded the Black Stars and scored both of their goals in the group phase. In the decisive match to determine the group’s top spot, a Mesut Ozil goal separated the two sides.

Holland exhibited a statement of intent by winning all three matches against Japan, Cameroon and Denmark—with the influential Wesley Sneijder pulling the strings. After an immensely successful season with his club Internazionale, where he won the Champions League, Serie A and the Coppa Italia, the Dutchman was in imperious form.

Sneijder excellent season with Inter continued with Holland at the World Cup

Sneijder excellent season with Inter continued with Holland at the World Cup

Japanese playmaker Keisuke Honda inspired the Samurai Blue to victories over the Danes and The Indomitable Lions to take second place in the group.

Holders Italy failed miserably to defend their trophy as they failed to muster a single win against Slovenia, Paraguay and New Zealand. The former two progressed while the All Whites joined the Azzurri in being eliminated—despite being the only team in the entire tournament being undefeated.

Brazil’s group had shock potential written all over it as the five-time World Champions were matched with Portugal, Ivory Coast and North Korea. That said, no particular surprises materialised as Portugal and Ivory Coast jostled for second place behind the Selecao. Os Navegadores, captained by in-form Cristiano Ronaldo, prevailed by one point.

Reigning European Champions Spain did themselves no favours whatsoever in losing to the Swiss in their opening game. However, David Villa went on to score three goals in the following two matches as La Roja rallied to finish top of the group (with help from other results).

In the second round, a Luis Suarez double ensured Uruguay made the quarter-final stage for the first time since 1970 as Los Charrúas beat the South Koreans 2-1. His second strike made Liverpool sit-up and take great notice of his talents.

In a repeat of the 2006 last 16, Argentina defeated Mexico, but this time in less than dramatic fashion as a Carlos Tevez double plus another Higuain strike resulted in a 3-1 win. Sneijder scored a late winner against Slovakia and Brazil comfortably saw off Chile 3-0.

Spain narrowly beat Portugal 1-0 as Sergio Ramos and Carlos Puyol kept Ronaldo quiet, whilst Villa added another goal to his World Cup tally.

Bloemfontein hosted the tie of the round as Germany seemingly crushed England 4-1, although the scoreline only partially told the real story.

England seemed in all sorts of trouble when Lukas Podolski scored Die Mannschaft’s second unanswered goal of the evening. Matthew Upson though reduced the deficit to 2-1 and then moments later Frank Lampard’s dipping strike cannoned off the underside of the crossbar and clearly crossed the line, 2-2. The Three Lions were in the ascendancy, but no official saw the ball cross the line and therefore the score remained 2-1.

The Germans took advantage of a despondent England with perfectly executed counter-attacks both finished off by eventual Golden Boot winner Thomas Muller.

Ghana beat the USA courtesy of an early extra-time goal by Gyan. Meanwhile Japan lost out to Paraguay on penalties after a 0-0 draw.

In the quarter-finals, another Sneijder-inspired performance resulted in a Dutch win over Brazil. The Inter midfielder scored a brace after Robinho had put Selecao ahead as early as the 10th minute. Felipe Melo then did his country no favours stamping on Arjen Robben to pick up a red card making a comeback even more unlikely. The Dutch held their nerve and avenged their quarter-final and semi-final defeats at the hands of Brazil in 1994 and 1998 respectively.

Villa continued his scoring streak as Spain edged out Paraguay 1-0. At Green Point stadium, Diego Maradona’s dream of equalling Franz Beckenbauer’s record of captaining and coaching a World Cup winning team was over after his lop-sided attacking tactics were ruthlessly exposed by Germany, 4-0.

The most dramatic match occurred at the Soccer City Stadium in Johannesburg where Uruguay battled Ghana. An exciting match ended 1-1 in full-time, resulting in extra-time. The Africans huffed and puffed to get a winner culminating in Suarez’s reflex hand ball on the line as he stopped a certain goal.

He was dismissed and the Black Stars hero of the tournament, Gyan, blasted the resultant stoppage-time penalty against the bar, sparking wild celebrations by the South Americans.

Penalties ensued where Gyan immediately rectified matters as he displayed nerves of steel by dispatching his penalty. Two of his team mates, John Mensah and Dominic Adiyiah, failed to replicate as Ghana crashed out.

“Come to your senses, people. He’s not a hero, he’s a trivial cheat. What hand of God? It was the hand of the devil.”—Ghana coach Milovan Rajevac on Luis Suarez’s hand ball


Robben wheels away in celebration during Le Oranje's semi-final win

Robben wheels away in celebration during Le Oranje’s semi-final win

Los Charrúas faced Holland in the semi-final and, without Suarez, lost out in a five-goal thriller, with Sneijder and Robben settling matters in the second-half.

In the other semi-final, without the suspended Thomas Muller, German hearts were broken once more by the Spanish as La Roja followed up their Euro 2008 Final win with another Tiki-Taka victory, as Carlos Puyol headed a second-half winner.

The European Champions reached the final to face three-times finalists Holland. On paper, the opponents possessed all the ingredients to produce a great spectacle but far from being a classic, the match descended into an overly physical and bitter affair.

Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta rifled a winner four minutes before the end of extra-time to win Spain a long overdue World Cup. They became the eighth winners of the World Cup and created history by becoming Europe’s first winners of a World Cup held outside of Europe. Furthermore they became the first nation to win its maiden World Cup on foreign soil since Brazil won the 1958 World Cup.

Key Facts

  • Teams: 32
  • Winner: Spain
  • Runner-up: The Netherlands
  • Goals: 145 in 64 games (average 2.3 per match)
  • Golden Boot: Thomas Muller (Germany)—5 goals in 6 matches (plus 3 assists)



– World Cup Archives—Part VI: From Allez Les Bleus to Travelling to a New Frontier (France 1998 & South Korea/Japan 2002)

– World Cup Archives—Part V: Witnessing Diego Maradona’s Rise to Prominence and his Fall from Grace (Mexico 1986 to USA 1994)

– World Cup Archives—Part IV: The Introduction of Total Football through to Marco Tardelli’s Iconic Goal Celebration (West Germany 1974 to Spain 1982)

– World Cup Archives—Part III: Rallying from a Natural Disaster to Winning the Jules Rimet Trophy for Good (West Germany 1974 to Spain 1982)

– World Cup Archives—Part II: From Capoeria Disappointment to the Emergence of Pele (Brazil 1950 to Sweden 1958)

– World Cup Archives—Part I: From Launching one of the World’s Greatest Sporting Dynasties to the Brink of War (Uruguay 1930 to France 1938)

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