Italy won a fourth World Cup triumph and broke German hearts along the way.
Italy win a fourth trophy and Zinedine Zidane ends his career in dramatic fashion
The Azzurri carved their way to glory while the hosts Germany also enjoyed a fine run under then-manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
France legend Zinedine Zidane, though, stole the headlines as his final professional match was concluded with a red card for a moment of madness.
Hosts Germany, who qualified automatically, were drawn alongside Ecuador, Poland and Costa Rica in Group A.
They got their campaign off to a flying start with a thrilling 4-2 victory over Costa Rica with Philipp Lahm’s opening goal a stunning way to get the tournament underway. Ecuador then edged out Poland before a goal from Oliver Neuville saw Germany also defeat their European neighbours.
The Ecuadorians continued their fine start with a 3-0 triumph against Costa Rica but they came undone against Germany, whose win secured them top spot. Poland then earned their first victory versus Costa Rica as Ecuador finished runners-up in Group A.
Sven Goran Eriksson’s England faced Sweden, Paraguay and Trinidad and Tobago in Group B. England ground out a 1-0 win over Paraguay in their opening clash as Carlos Gamarra diverted home David Beckham’s free-kick.
Sweden were held to a 0-0 stalemate in their opening game with Trinidad before England downed the Caribbean nation thanks to late goals from Peter Crouch and Steven Gerrard.
The Swedes recorded their first win over Paraguay before a 2-2 draw with England ensured the Three Lions topped the group and their Scandinavian counterparts finished second. England then locked horns with Sweden in a game that finished 2-2 – and included a stunning goal from Joe Cole – but was marred by a serious knee injury to key striker Michael Owen, whose tournament came to an end.
Group C was considered the so-called ‘group of death’ as Argentina, Holland, Ivory Coast and Serbia and Montenegro battled for qualification to the last 16.
Two-time winners Argentina were made to fight for a 2-1 success over Ivory Coast before Holland recorded a 1-0 victory against Serbia. Argentina then put on an almighty show as they smashed Serbia for six to seal their passage from Group C, while Holland’s win against Ivory Coast also clinched their qualification.
Ivory Coast at least ended their campaign on a positive note courtesy of a 3-2 win over Serbia while Holland and Argentina played out a goalless draw to ensure the latter finished top of the group on goal difference.
Portugal topped Group D on maximum points after seeing off Angola, Iran and Mexico. The Mexicans landed second spot after beating Iran 3-1 in their first game before earning a point against Angola.
Italy and Ghana also progressed to the first knockout round after the pair finished first and second in Group E respectively. The Czech Republic started promisingly as they brushed aside the United States 3-0 while Italy saw off Ghana 2-0. But the Czechs were to be undone by the Ghanaians in their second game while Italy played out a 1-1 draw with USA.
In the final round of games in Group E, Italy ended the Czech Republic’s participation while Ghana’s 2-1 win over the United States sealed the runners-up berth.
Brazil, who for the first time as holders did not automatically qualify to defend their trophy, were placed against Australia, Croatia and Japan in Group F. Australia, playing in their first World Cup for 32 years, began with a victory as they overcame Japan 3-1 while Brazil edged out Croatia thanks to Kaka’s goal.
Croatia and Japan played out a goalless stalemate while Carlos Alberto Parreira’s Brazil rose to dispose of Australia before beating Japan to wrap up top position.
In the final Group F encounter, Croatia and Australia drew 2-2 as the latter became the first Oceania team to reach the knockout stages. However, the game between the pair was marred by referee Graham Poll astonishingly handing out three yellow cards to the same player.
A solid Switzerland side marched to the top of Group G as France overcame a slow start to finish second. In Group H, Spain advanced with a 100 per cent record while Ukraine sealed the second-placed berth as Tunisia and Saudi Arabia failed to earn wins.
Hosts Germany were paired against Sweden in the last 16. They advanced to the quarter-finals thanks to two early goals from Lukas Podolski.
Argentina had to rely on a sublime extra-time strike from Maxi Rodriguez against Mexico to help them progress.
Beckham was the hero for England as his free-kick disposed of Ecuador while Maniche netted the only goal of a heated game for Portugal versus Holland.
Italy and France march on
Italy advanced in controversial circumstances against Australia. Having had defender Marco Materazzi dismissed, the Azzurri scored late via Francesco Totti’s penalty.
Switzerland exited on penalties against Ukraine but boasted having gone the entire tournament without conceding a goal. Brazil were comfortable victors against Ghana while France recovered from a goal down to defeat Spain.
Germany met Argentina in the quarter-finals and the duo’s contest was forced to be decided on penalties after 120 minutes ended 1-1. The Germans held their nerve and progressed to the semi-finals.
Italy took on Ukraine in their quarter-final clash and were comfortable 3-0 winners, while Thierry Henry was the hero for France as his goal saw off holders Brazil.
England faced Portugal in a match that saw Wayne Rooney dismissed after a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho while David Beckham suffered injury. England managed to hold out for penalties but ultimately fell.
Germany locked horns with Italy in the first of two all-European semi-finals. The encounter went to extra-time after a goalless 90 minutes. And the result looked set to be decided on penalties until Fabio Grosso and Alessandro Del Piero scored dramatically late goals to send the Azzurri to the final and break the host nation’s hearts.
In the second semi-final, a Zidane spot-kick proved decisive as France edged out Portugal in Munich.
The final between France and Italy took place at Olympiastadion in Berlin, with the former taking an early lead. Zidane converted from the penalty spot on seven minutes but Italy responded through Materazzi 12 minutes later.
Luca Toni hit the woodwork in normal time while Florent Malouda saw appeals for a penalty turned down by referee Horacio Elizondo.
And then in extra-time, legendary midfielder Zidane was dismissed. The Frenchman launched a headbutt into the chest of Materazzi and was duly sent off.
A penalty shootout then followed and David Trezeguet was the villain for Les Bleus as he saw his shot saved before Grosso dispatched the winning spot-kick for Marcello Lippi’s Italy, who went the whole tournament having conceded just twice.
The Azzurri had landed their first World Cup in 24 years – their fourth overall. The victory also signified a team effort with 21 of their 23-man squad participating and 10 of those players finding the net.
Player of the tournament: Zinedine Zidane
Zidane, who had been lured out of international retirement, started the tournament poorly as France drew their opening two group games, and was suspended from their third, a 2-0 win against Togo.
Boss Raymond Domenech, however, backed the veteran Frenchman and he never looked back in the knockout stages, inspiring an ageing side to victory against Spain, Brazil and Portugal.
His tournament. of course, will always be remembered for the headbutt.
Goal of the tournament: Esteban Cambiasso v Serbia and Montenegro
Maxi Rodriguez’s volley against Mexico would win many polls for goal of the tournament in 2006, but in terms of sheer uniqueness, it has to be Argentina’s pass-and-move effort against Serbia and Montenegro in the group stage.
There were 24 passes in total as all but one Argentian outfield player got in on the action, culminating in Cambiasso’s fine finish from just inside the area.
Match of the tournament: Italy 1-1 France, Italy win 5-3 on penalties
It’s not often the final is the standout game of a World Cup, but in terms of drama in Germany it’s hard to look past how Germany 2006 came to a conclusion.
From Zidane’s penalty to Materazzi’s equaliser, through to the clash between those two that will forever go down in history, it was an unforgettable game in Berlin.
And it all culminated in a penalty shootout and Trezeguet’s miss, leaving the French heartbroken and Italy with a fourth title.
England were once again the sole representatives in the finals from the home nations as they exited at the quarter-final stage.
Northern Ireland recorded a famous qualifying win over England but it was one of just two victories as they finished fourth in their group, one place ahead of Wales. Scotland, meanwhile, finished third behind Italy and Norway.