Most Valuable Players of the 2006 FIFA World Cup

The 2006 World Cup was supposed to herald the coming of a new generation of football. Young stars from Spain, England, Brazil etc. were pipped to do well, but it turned out to be the last hurrah for the French Golden Generation and some ageing Italians.

The Italians won their fourth World Cup Crown in 2006, defeating France on penalties. A game that is now more famous for Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt than anything else.

Headbutt aside, Zidane was one of the best performers at the 2006 World Cup and here are the ones who join him in our list of the MVPs of the 2006 World Cup.

Zinedine Zidane

The French great had come out of international retirement to participate in this tournament that turned out to be his swansong.

Despite enduring a slow start, Zidane inspired France to a finals appearance with superlative displays in the knockout stages. He masterminded their win over Spain, despite trailing. Following that, he single handedly outclassed Brazil, the favorites for the title, making players like Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Kaka pedestrian. A win over Portugal in the semis put France in the final where Zidane opened the scoring with an exquisite chip penalty.

Alas! Zidane’s amazing tournament was overshadowed by his headbutt on Marco Materazzi and subsequent red card. But, that did not stop FIFA from awarding Zizou the Golden Ball and neither will it stop us from calling him a 2006 World Cup MVP

Fabio Cannavaro

While Zidane’s inspiring run appealed to the World Cup viewers, it should not take away from how good the Italians were at the tournament.

Fabio Cannavaro marshalled a particularly miserly back line that seemed hellbent on not conceding any goals. In fact, Italy only ended up conceding two goals throughout the tournament and none of them came from open play.

Cannavaro’s leadership of the side and his defensive unit was exemplary as the Azzurri showcased great tactical nous throughout the tournament. Cannavaro, despite being undersized for a CB, outshone every other defender with his impressive reading of the game and positioning.

The then Juventus defender took home the Silver Ball award and was later also named the Ballon D’Or recipient for 2006.

Miroslav Klose

The World Cup is the favourite haunt for prolific marksmen from around the world but the Germans somehow seem to love it more than anyone else.

Miroslav Klose is now known as the highest ever goal-scorer in World Cup history and the 2006 World Cup was the exclamation point where he solidified his credentials as a dangerous striker.

Not much was expected from the hosts at the 2006 World Cup, but Jurgen Klinsmann’s side surprised many with a semi-finals appearance. That was all possible because of Klose’s magical scoring touch in the tournament.

The German striker found the net five times, with two braces against Costa Rica and Ecuador in the group stages. He then helped in tying a game with perennial rivals Argentina with a header in the 80th minute.

Andrea Pirlo

If Cannavaro was the defensive lynchpin for the Azzurri, then Andrea Pirlo was the offensive architect. The 2006 World Cup was the Sistine Chapel to Pirlo’s Michelangelo as he carved defenses with his inch-perfect through balls and controlled the game with pace-setting plays.

Pirlo was the top assist provider in the tournament with three. His assist for Fabio Grosso’s opener in the semi-final against Germany stands out, however, as Pirlo’s no look pass outfoxed the German defence and paved the way for Grosso to convert.

Pirlo won 3 Man of the Match awards at the 2006 World Cup. Another impressive stat was that he completed 475 passes out of an attempted 580 in the whole tournament.

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