The 2006 World Cup Review

By Andrew Dixon, III
Updated: July 13, 2006

MIAMI — The 2006 World Cup has finally ended with Italy capturing its 4th World Cup in a tense dramatic final decided on penalties. I imagine, though, that the Zinedine Zidane head butt will be talked about more than the rest of the final.

While that certainly provided a bizarre chapter to the final match, the 2006 World Cup was memorable in many different ways, some good some bad.

While it may not have had many moments of brilliance no one could debate neither the passion nor the ferocity and borderline desperation which the players contested these matches.

Here’s some the highs and lows that I’ll take from the 2006 World Cup:

Surprise team: The Blacks Stars of Ghana were thrown into a difficult group with eventual champions Italy, the highly regarded Czech Republic and the up and coming US. Yet they escaped from the Real Group of Death with solid displays in each of their first round matches (an a little help from the officiating) and dominated parts of their Round of 16 match against Brazil despite being on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline.

This is a team that will challenge Nigeria & Cameroon for continental supremacy. Unfortunately, they were the only African team to advance as Tunisia, Togo (and their appearance bonus drama) Angola and the Ivory Coast (who were done in only by their inexperience) all failed to qualify for the knockout rounds. ***image7***

Broadcast-Imagine that you tune in for the Super Bowl and find out the announcer for the biggest game of the year is someone who’s only called 8 football games in his entire career. In naming baseball announcer Dave O’Brien the lead play by play announcer for the World Cup, that’s what ESPN/ABC thrust upon soccer fans.

He clearly didn’t know the game and tried to fill in every second with amusing little anecdotes about the players when he should have been simply doing the play by play. While he sniped in the press about the criticism he received, there is no excuse for him referring to England’s captain David Beckham as “Michael Beckett”.

You know you haven’t gotten the job done when people would rather listen to matches in Spanish than listen to you prattle over every second of play, trying to use anolgies from other sports to explain the action. What exactly did JP Dellacamera, the network’s longest serving play by play guy, do to get passed over, watch internet porn at work?

JP Dellacamera: Should have been #1

JP Dellacamera: Should have been #1

ESPN/ABC: That being said, I thought ESPN did a decent job presenting the matches and give the event the respect that it was due. The other sets of annoucners were all decent and I thought Eric Wynalda, who has apparently taken a cue from Mexico’s Hugo Sanchez and become the US resident playa hata, provided enough blunt criticism of the US to keep fans watching.

Even the SportsCenter anchors approached the matches with the seriousness that it has been heretofore unseen on their broadcasts. They were rewarded with the highest Nielsen rating since the 1994 World Cup that was played here. Something to build on.

Get UP, already!– The diving that went on in this World Cup was absolutely shameful. Too many players would go down at the slightest contact hoping to draw fouls, then would lie on the ground in mock agaony while looking out the corner of their eye, hoping to see a card produced against the defender.

Get up, Cristiano

Get up, Cristiano

Other times, teams that were in the lead would fake injuries just to slow the rhythm of the team trying to rally. For example, Italy won its Round of 16 against Austrailia with a dive in second half injury time, Ghana earned the penalty against the US that provided the winning margin in the same fashion and don’t get me started on Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo, an incredibly talented player with the ball at his feet that goes down as if he trips over a piano wire anytime someone gets near him. FIFA has got to put an end to this.

Officiating-After the 2002 World Cup many European sides complained about the officiating, saying that all of the controversial calls were made by inexperienced officials from smaller soccer countries. In other words, they weren’t European enough.

***image10***Yet this time the so-called superior European referees were responsbile for the most horribly officiated tournament in memory. England’s Graham Poll gave three yellow cards to a Croatian player before sending him off (you only get two). German referee Markus Merk called the phantom penalty against the US’ Oguchi Onyewu that gave Ghana its 2-1 lead that they held onto to reach the Round of 16.

Russian Valentin Ivanov’s performance in the Holland-Portugal Round of 16 match up was so bad (he awarded 4 red cards and 16 yellows) that FIFA president Sepp Blatter himself wanted to issue him a yellow card. The obvious dive by Italy’s Fabio Grosso when he fell over a supine Lucas Neill of Austrailia was instead called a penalty by Spain’s Luis Medina Cantalejo and give the Italians passage to the quarterfinals.

So please, enough with the criticism of non-European officials. The European versions repeatedly showed their incompetence throughout.

Don’t believe the hype: England-I’ll admit. I got took. Bamboozled. Led astray. Run Amok. I let myself get squarely behind this England team thinking they would go deep into the tournament. This was the most talented team, everyone kept saying. John Terry was the second coming of Tony Adams, they said.

I was expecting Wayne Rooney to turn the world on its head. I kept hearing about Steven Gerrard and Frank Lamapard, called the best midfielder in the world by his club manager. I really wanted to believe in the 3 Lions this year. But in the end, it was the same old England. They only did just enough to get to the quarterfinals and then ended up losing when someone gets sent off (Rooney for stomping on a Portuguese player’s groin).

Predictably, the English fans found themselves a foreign villan. Usually its a ref (Urs Meier) or an Argentine (Maradona, Simeone). This time it was Cristiano Ronaldo. They swear up and down that HE got Wayne Rooney sent off because he asked for a card.


Ronaldo couldn’t draw fouls for all of his diving and NOW he has this great influence with the officials? Utter bol*ocks. And so it remains that England has ONE international title: The 1966 World Cup played on home soil, won in overtime with the help of a disputed goal.***image12***

Dont Believe the Hype (Puffy remix):Yet they weren’t even the most disappointing side. While the US didn’t exactly make an impression and the Czech Republic (who had NO ONE questioning their #2 World Ranking) can also lay claim to this title, the ridiculously talented Brazillian side simply never got going.

They strolled in and yawned their way through their group with uninspiring performances and were cruelly exposed by the Zidane led French side. Though, Ronaldo became the all-time leading scorer in the history of the World Cup, Ronaldinho never showed up and the aging defense wasn’t enough in the later stages.

***image14***Brazil played as if everyone was supposed to lay down for them but no one got that memo.

Fans-Part of the spectacle of the World Cup is the fans who come from all over to support their team. The English fans in full voice is always awe-inspiring but the German fans were also excellent with their fanatical support. The US fans also did themselves proud, especially during the Italy match where they could be clearly heard.

Angolans and Iranians

Angolans and Iranians

Yet every country’s supporters were wonderful, singing the praises of their country’s team, roaring them on in the final minutes and demonstrating the comraderie that comes with being mutual fans of the world’s most popular sport, It’s always an awe-inspiring sight and shows just how wonderful this sport can be.

Goal of the Tournament: Tomas Rosicky’s first goal against the US, a 25 yeard sceramer to the upper right corner was…well…sick. Joe Cole’s first half volley against Sweden was impressive. David Beckham bent in a beautiful free kick against Ecuador. Ronaldo’s goal in the first five minutes against Ghana was nasty as well.

But for me, the goal of the tournament was turned in by Maxi Rodriguez who received a pass on the right from the other side of the field, chested it out of the air and then volleyed it with his left foot past Mexican goal keeper Oswaldo Sanchez from about 25 yards out in overtime. Brilliant individual skill.***image8***

Quit playa hatin’-We may have seen the last of David Beckham at a World Cup and I will never understand the vitrol spewed at this guy by English supporters and pundits. US goalkeeper Kasey Keller may think he’s a poser but at least he showed up for England at this year’s World Cup.

With all the talk about all of these players that should be captain instead of Beckham, none of them produced the goods, except for maybe John Terry. Steven Gerrard failed to make a mark, Frank Lampard might as well been playing for the US with his lack of production and Michael Owen blew his knee out after a minute in the match against Sweden.

***image16***While England was struggling to score, it was Beckham who was providing what little offense there was. It was his free kick that was headed in for an own-goal against Paraguay. It was his free kick that led to the opening goal against Trinidad and Tobago for Peter Crouch. Yes, he had an off game against Sweden that led to BBC pundit and Beckham hater Terry Butcher to call for him to get dropped.

Terry Butcher’s greatest contribution to international football was being one of the 6 players annihilated by Diego Maradona for the game winning goal in their classic 1986 matchup. So he was familiar with humilation as Beckham, dehydrated and throwing up on the field, delivered the classic Bend-It-Like-you-know-who free kick goal against Ecuador that sent England to the next round. That’s what a capatain does and that’s what a great player does.

Later for the haters, Becks. I got your back

***image17*** Goal Celebration of the World Cup– Ivan Kaviedes honors former National Team forward Otilino “Spider-Man” Tenorio who died last year in a car accident by pulling out and donning a Spider-Man mask.

Kahn gives props to Lehman (sport1)

Kahn gives props to Lehman (sport1)

The “Come Together” moment of the World Cup-Oliver Kahn, the long time German goalkeeper was demoted in favor of his rival and nemesis Jens Lehmann. Yet the replays of Kahn approaching Lehmann just before the penalty kick shoot-out against Argentina in the quarterfinals, giving him advice and shaking his hand really demonstrated how much more important winning was to him than keeping alive individual greivances. Well done.

The “Do Shut Up!” Moment of World Cup-Parguay’s captain Carlos Gamarra proclaimed England the “third best team in the group”, before opening match, the proceeded to head David Beckham’s free kick into his own net, just 3 minutes into the match for the only goal.

England won the group while Paraguay finished…third. Just about everything Dave O’Brien said was tied for second.

The “What the heck are you DOING?” Moment of the World Cup-Jose Pekerman subbing off playmaker Juan Riquelme with about 20 minutes left in regulation and Argentina clinging to a one goal lead made no sense and Argentina eventually lost on penalties. Italy’s Daniele DeRossi’s elbow to the face of Brian McBride was an act of lunacy.

***image11***Togo’s players almost going on strike and causing their coach to resign just 3 days before their opener, only to come back was a drama onto itself. . But c’mon, those are all vying for 2nd place behind Zidane’s loss of composure 10 minutes before the end of the final.

Bull market boys (Players who’s stock is rising): Germany’s Lucas Podolski, Porutgal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Maniche, Argentina’s Maxi Rodriguez, France’s Frank Ribery, Ghana’s Michael Essien (i know he’s a known quantity but he’s only going to get better), Ecuador’s Edison Mendez

Essien: Embodient of Ghana's bright future (BBC)

Essien: Embodient of Ghana's bright future (BBC)

Match of the Tournament: I don’t know that any game truly stood out as a classic. The final was fiercely contested, and the France comeback on Spain was pretty well played match. Tunisia and Saudia Arabia featured an injury time equalizer by Tunisia’s Rahdi Jahidi after Sami Al Jaber had put the Saudis up with just 6 minutes left.

Argentina and Germany literally fought for their country’s advancement in the quarterfinals. But I might have to go with France-Brazil. Zidane was amazing in this match, setting up Henry for the match-winner and the French put on an excellent display that had the Brazillians on the back foot all match long

This was a match-up that everyone wanted to see and the French truly had found their stride and dumping the champions.

Thierry Henry finishes off Brazil (AP)

Thierry Henry finishes off Brazil (AP)

A month of passion, controversy, skill and atmosphere has now passed into the histoy books. Start saving your money. The 2010 World Cup in S. Africa is just three years and 11 months away.

Meanwhile, I need some sleep…