Thierry Henry, Zinedine Zidane in 2006 World Cup Team of the Tournament
With the 2022 World Cup in Qatar just around the corner, HITC Football took a look back at the Germany 2006 squad – including Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane.
Germany hosted the 18th edition of the Fifa quadrennial competition 16 years ago. It was the second time the European nation had hosted the event, having also hosted the tournament in 1974. However, unlike in 1974, Die Mannschaft could not win the World Cup as hosts.
Italy boasted their fourth and final World Cup title in Germany in 2006. The Azzurri beat France 5-3 on penalties in the final at the Olympiastadion after a 1-1 draw after extra time. However, the Berlin draw remains Italy’s last knockout stage victory.
The Azzurri were knocked out of the following World Cups in South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014 in the group stages. Things haven’t improved for Italy since either, as the country failed to qualify for the 2018 tournament in Russia and again for the upcoming edition in Qatar.
Italy’s decline on the global stage is in stark contrast to their success in Germany 16 years ago. The Azzurri dominated the team of the tournament at the 2006 World Cup, with Marcello Lippi’s side taking five of the 11 positions. France was second with three.
Only one of the 11 players who made the team of the tournament for the 2006 World Cup in Germany is still playing today. So with that in mind, HITC Football looks back at the stars of 16 years ago and what happened to their careers after the competition…
Gianluigi Buffon (GK): The 2006 World Cup winner made the team of the tournament
Gianluigi Buffon won the Golden Glove and a place in the team of the tournament with his performances for Italy at the 2006 World Cup. The iconic goalkeeper, with 176 caps, kept five clean sheets in seven games. He conceded only once in the group stage and then only in the final.
The 44-year-old has been in inspired form during the World Cup to present an imposing figure between the sticks. He became the Azzurri’s first-choice goalkeeper in 1999 and was their number one and captain until 2018. Buffon retired from international action as an all-time great.
But Buffon is still yet to find time for his club career with the veteran now at Serie B side Parma. The Carrara legend returned to his former team in 2021, 20 years after he left for Juventus. Buffon would initially spend 17 years at Turin, winning nine Serie A titles.
Gianluca Zambrotta (RB): The Italian made the team of the tournament as champion
Gianluca Zambrotta made 98 appearances for Italy during an 11-year international career. The full-back made six appearances during the 2006 World Cup, recording a goal and an assist in the quarter-final win against Ukraine. The 45-year-old player also made his mark behind the goal line.
Lippi benefited from Zambrotta’s versatility throughout the tournament, featuring at left or right back. The Como native would transfer his defensive knowledge to coaching in 2013. But Zambrotta has been out of work since leaving his assistant role at Jiangsu in 2018.
Fabio Cannavaro (CB): World Cup winner made Team of the Tournament
Fabio Cannavaro remains one of the few defenders to have won the Ballon d’Or after winning football’s most decorated individual honor in 2006. The centre-half was on a different level at the 2006 World Cup as he captained Italy. to world fame as captain in Germany.
It was a brick wall at the back that protected Buffon in the net while helping set up the Azzurri’s counter-attacks. Cannavaro – recently hired by Benevento as head coach in Serie B – played every minute of Italy’s 2006 World Cup, winning seven of his 136 caps.
Lilian Thuram (CB): The French signing made the star team for 2006
France advanced to the 2006 World Cup finals thanks in no small part to Team of the Tournament member Lilian Thuram. The defender was a heroic presence in the Bleus line-up, typical of the 142-cap hero, whose Man of the Match performance in their semi-final win against Portugal.
Thuram became France’s most capped player on the way to the 2006 World Cup finals in 2006, a record that the centre-half, who opted for a coaching career, still holds today. But Hugo Lloris is now on the verge of breaking the record.
Philipp Lahm (LB): The German defender broke through at the World Cup on home soil
Philipp Lahm burst onto the World Cup stage on home soil in 2006 as the German legend produced a Team of the Tournament campaign. He played a supporting role in Die Mannschaft’s efforts from left-back with a number of consistently impressive displays.
The 38-year-old will again feature in the team of the tournament for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and Brazil 2014. He has been the consummate professional during his 113-game career with Germany. Lahm recently took on an advisory role for VfB Stuttgart.
Luis Figo (RM): Portugal icon led his nation to fourth place at the World Cup
Luis Figo announced his international retirement in 2004, but the iconic winger returned to captain Portugal during the 2006 World Cup. The Selecao were delighted to have the 2000 Ballon d’Or winner back for the final time as he bowed out to rapturous applause.
The 127-cap icon – now a UEFA adviser – set up Portugal’s goals to beat Angola and Iran in the group stage. Their journey continued to the semi-finals before losing to France. Germany also beat them in the play-off for third place, but Figo added another assist.
Andrea Pirlo (CM): The Italian icon was an effortless hero at the 2006 World Cup
Andrea Pirlo was an effortless hero for Italy as they won the 2006 World Cup in Germany. The 116-cap icon was the epitome of cool in their engine room and played at an unrivaled level to claim the most man-of-the-match awards in this year’s tournament with three.
His effortless performances saw Pirlo secure the Bronze Ball as the tournament’s third best overall player. The 43-year-old continued to play until 2018 when he moved into coaching. He is currently the manager at Karagumruk after spending the 2020/21 season in charge of Juventus.
Gennaro Gattuso (CM): Selfless worker of the Italian set-up in Germany
Gennaro Gattuso was a dedicated worker in the Italian set-up in Germany, constantly fighting to win the ball. His drive to win possession allowed Pirlo to pull the strings with such ease and saw the 44-year-old win a second Champions League at AC Milan in 2006/07.
The 73-year-old midfielder spent 13 years of his playing career at San Siro before returning as manager in 2017. Gattuso was at the helm at Palermo, Crete and Pisa before taking charge of the Rossoneri. He is now boss at Valencia after a spell at Napoli.
Zinedine Zidane (CAM): The French icon pulled the strings before his own controversy
Zidane captained France to the 2006 World Cup before ending the tournament in controversial circumstances. The iconic midfielder led Les Bleus to the final in Berlin from a deeper position, using all his experience to create endless opportunities.
The 108-cap maestro hit once in the last 16, the winning goal in the semi-finals and Panenka broke the heel in the final. He also bagged assists in the round of 16 and quarter-finals to inspire 3-1 and 1-0 wins over Spain and Brazil before knocking Portugal out.
But after Zidane scored from the spot in Berlin, Marco Materazzi equalized for Italy. The 41-cap defender and Zidane were embroiled in a personal battle throughout the match, which reached a boiling point in extra-time when a furious Zidane head-butted an Azzurri player.
It would be Zidane’s last appearance as a player as the Marseille-born star has already announced his retirement. He entered coaching and later became the manager of Real Madrid from 2016 to 2018. However, he has not held a role anywhere since leaving Los Blancos again in 2021.
Zidane returned to the Santiago Bernabeu helm in 2019 for a further 114 games in charge after his initial 149. His first spell in charge also saw the Galacticos win three consecutive Champions League titles. While his return to the helm led to a second La Liga crown in 19/20.
Miroslav Klose (ST): The German icon secured the World Cup Golden Ball award in 2006
Germany would finish third at the 2006 World Cup with Miroslav Klos as the tournament’s top scorer with five goals. The centre-forward was the best poacher on home soil, hitting the net four times in the group stage and once in the quarter-finals against Argentina.
The icon’s efforts with 137 World Cup caps in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014 also tied Klose for the most goals in the tournament’s history. He boasts 16 and five assists from 24 appearances in the FIFA competition and remarkably each of his goals have also come in open play.
Thierry Henry (ST): The French hero put Va Va Voom in his 2006 World Cup hopes
Henry put Va Va Voom in France’s 2006 World Cup hopes to earn his place in the team of the tournament. The forward scored once at home against South Korea and Togo in the group stage, with the only effort coming in Les Bleus’ quarter-final win over Brazil in Frankfurt.
He also found Zidane as a midfielder who scored the only goal of the game against Portugal in the semi-final. Henry started all of France’s 2006 World Cup matches in seven of his 123 career starts. He will now travel to Qatar for the 2022 World Cup as an assistant with Belgium.
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