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FIFA World Cup Final 2006, a trip down memory lane!

With the world cup just a few months away, let us walk down memory lane into the World Cup final of 2006 between France and Italy!

The Fifa 2006 World Cup was the 18th time footballs largest tournament was played. It had started on the 9th of June and went on till the 9th of July in the year 2006. It was in the year 2003 that the qualifications for this event started. 198 countries from 6 continents took part and had a chance to make way into the most prestigious football event. At the end of the qualifiers 32 teams totally qualify for the Fifa World Cup Finals.

Italy was one of the favourites alongside Brazil, Spain and hosts Germany to win the coveted title of World Champions. Each of the teams comfortably entered the Finals. At end of the highly entertaining one month Italy came out strongest and won the tournament beating France on penalties after a 1-1 draw at the end of 120 min.

Italy has been one of the strongest teams in the history of football. They have won a total of 4 world Cups in the years.

Italy was in the qualification group consisting of Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Belarus, Moldova and Italy. Italy topped the group with 23 points from ten games played winning 7, drawing 2, and losing just 1, a very comfortable group for the Champions who had no hesitation in making it to the big stage.

After the 32 teams that were to play the World Cup were ensured then Fifa had the ceremony to pick lots and create the group stage of the event to be held in 2006. Italy was drawn in the group stage alongside Ghana, Czech Republic and United States. Even this group proved to be fairly simple to get through for them. They beat Ghana and Czech Republic and drew with United States. The goal conceded by Italy against United States was an own goal.

After Italy topped their group they progressed towards the business end of the tournament where they had to face the more difficult opponents. In the knockout round of 16 Italy had to face Australia where ace striker Francesco Totti hit the back of the net in 90+5 minute from the penalty spot in injury time to break the hearts of the Australians. It was an impressive performance by both the sides but one moment of frustration cost Australia the game.

Along with Italy, Germany, Argentina, Ukraine, England, Portugal, Brazil and France all qualified for the quarterfinals. Italy then beat Ukraine one of the weaker teams from the rest 3-0 with goals from Zambrotta in the 6th minute and Luca Toni in the 59th and 69th minute. After this performance by the Italians, it seemed that nobody could stop them. They continued winning with the momentum they had created from the time of the qualifiers. The shocking and best part of all the Italian victories was that they had not conceded a field goal or a spot goal scored by any of the opponents. They looked really good and confident and just never looked to give up.

After the quarterfinal the Italians had to face Germany the hosts in the semis. This looked like a toughie for the Italians as they were going to face the team with the maximum support form a partisan crowd. It was a very tough game well fought by both the teams. At the end of 90 minutes neither of the teams had broken the deadlock it was 0-0. The game went into extra time. Another 30 minutes of football where the game could be won.  The deadlock was then broken by the Italians in the 119 minute and then in injury time during extra time. It was 2-0 and all the German hearts were broken and the Italians progressed to the FINALS.

Italy had to face France in the finals, a very big clash one of the biggest clashes of the world cup. Real big names like Zidane, Therriy Henry, Ribery, Totti, Toni, Buffon were going to be on the pitch. The game had been tipped as one of the best Fifa World Cup Finals of all time.

The game kicked off and France asserted a lot of pressure on the Italians in the beginning. Florent Malouda was brought down by Materazzi in the penalty box in the 7th minute. It was a controversial call but then replays showed that it was a good call. The best at that time Ziddan steped up to take the shot. He scored in the 7th minute which was the best possible start that the French could have asked for an early lead. The game went on as it did till the 19th minute where the Italians took a corner and Materazzi put the ball in the back of the net. The game continued and with both teams asserting pressure at certain times in the game. The game ended at 1-1 in 90 minutes and extra time was needed. During the second half of extra time Zidane had head butted Materazzi and got himself a red card, the worst possible end to an illustrious career. Zidane wearing the Number 10 jersey walking past the world cup just summed up the night for the French.  At the end of 120 minutes it was still 1-1. The 2006 world cup final needed a penalty shootout only the 2nd world cup final to be decided on penalties. The Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon made a few very spectacular saves and did a great job. Trezeguet’s penalty shot hit the post, and the Italians did not miss a single shot on goal in the penalties. It was all over the Italians won the game 5-3 on penalties. It was Italy’s first title in 24 years and their 4th world championship title overall. Materazzi scored a penalty for the Italians and was involved in all the event of the game from the foul to concede to penalty, to scoring the equaliser, and then the sending of Zidane which probably must have been the reason for France to lose a chance to become the world champions then.

The win helped Italy gain the prime position in the ranking in February 2007, for the first time since November 2003. Zidane (France) was awarded the Golden Ball award, Klose (Germany) the Golden Boot. Italian midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo had the maximum Man of the Match Awards 3 in total. Buffon had the maximum number of clean sheets of the tournament for which he was awarded the Yashin Award. Buffon also became the most popular keeper and also one of the best during those few years.

After the world cup seven of the Italian players Buffon, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Pirlo, Gattuso, Totti and Toni made it to the All Star Team of Fifa. This was the best team that Italy had ever put forth for a tournament of this stature. The best ending possible for a group of lads with determination, passion, love for the sport and the hunger to win. Italians took back the most coveted title that any team would desire to get.

They looked set to win from the outset and did so. None of the players had a bad spell and none of them got complacent, a perfect team performance and a lot to learn for other teams from them. 

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