World Cup 2006

wsc302 Andy Brassell on the French midfielder who filmed his adventures at the 2006 World Cup

The recent screening of Vikash Dhorasoo and Fred Poulet's film Substitute at the Institut Français' Ciné Lumière in London was prefaced by a drinks reception in the adjoining library of the Grade II-listed Art Deco building. The elegance of the setting could make many footballers feel ill at ease. The now-retired Dhorasoo seemed more comfortable here than he would have been at some of his clubs.

Saturday June 24
Germany 2 Sweden 0
“Even when they’re supposed to be rubbish, they’re good,” says Gary Lineker after a first half dominated by Germany, who lead by two early goals from Podolski. Sweden are failing to close down opponents, picking the wrong pass and exchanging shrugs. Worse still they’re offending Mark Bright: “Basics... absolute basics.” Lucic gets a second yellow for a shirt tug in the middle of the pitch; Mr Simon of Brazil, having been cajoled into taking action by German protests, produces a sickly smirk while holding up the red. Lehmann doesn’t look at all secure during rare attacks but he’s not made to work by Larsson’s poor penalty, skied into the stands. Germany look for more: Schneider’s deflected shot comes off the post, Isaksson beats out an effort from Neuville. A German supporter is waving a model of the World Cup. “A bit premature,” sniffs Stuart Pearce.

The team were still a letdown, but England had more winning ways off the pitch, to the relief of Philip Cornwall

Six years ago, at Euro 2000, I was on the point of giving up on England. I had the masochistic streak needed to cope with events on the pitch, but not what came with it for much longer: the sullen contempt for anything and anyone who wasn’t English that radiated from so many of the team’s followers even if they weren’t expressing it in word, song, action. Some of these people seethed in their sleep.

England always struggle with penalty shootouts but, as Ben Lyttleton explains, the more professional approach of others is leaving them ever further behind

Paul Robinson began the World Cup accused of trying to make one of his clearances hit the giant box of video screens that hung over the centre-circle of the stadium in Frankfurt. He ended the competition staring far too often at the same screens, this time at the stadium in Gelsenkirchen, as each Portugal player walked 40 yards to take a penalty in the shootout that ultimately knocked out England.

All the complaints about the ticketing didn't stop the grounds being full. But, as Steve Menary explains, that doesn't mean people were wrong to be angry at a system in need of reform

 Saudi Arabia’s opening group match against Tunisia on June 14 summed up the World Cup ticket paradox. There were a few empty seats before kick-off, but not enough to argue with an announcement that the most obscure first-round game had filled one of the biggest grounds, Munich’s impressive new 66,000-seat Allianz Arena.

You couldn't avoid seeing the endless plugs for sponsors but, wonders Barney Ronay, did they make you buy anything?

This was surely the most energetically sponsored World Cup yet. Certainly, there was something different about the corporate presence. FIFA and your local TV channel may have long since run out of easy ways to up the logo content. But somehow it was all just a bit more insistent. The pitch perimeter advertising was standardised at this World Cup, with – you’d imagine – each step closer to the holy grail of the halfway line eagerly auctioned off. Close your eyes and you can still picture them all. Hyundai, Toshiba, McDonald’s, Coca-Cola (in Brazil colours). Something called Avaya. At most grounds the advertising boards themselves had either been extended to cover the first couple of rows of seats or framed by a lemon tarpaulin to give them that extra grab factor. These ads were super-sized – bigger and, unless there’s something drastically wrong with the contrast on my television, brighter, too. 

Brazil travelled to Germany as favourites, but Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and friends rarely looked worth the hype. As Robert Shaw explains, they paid the price for putting commercial concerns ahead of football

Carlos Alberto Parreira is an articulate coach, accustomed to giving presentations. But when it really mattered at the World Cup he was strangely speechless. After Thierry Henry slipped past a sleeping defence, Parreira seemed dumbstruck and delayed shuffling his pack, with Robinho left on the bench until it was too late. Brazil’s formation based on an attacking quartet was set in stone, although the notoriously cautious coach had only really seen it work well against Argentina in the Confederations Cup final last June and in the drubbing of Chile in September.

Serie A is in a rare state of turmoil, but Marcelo Lippi's team gave the country something to shout about. Paul Virgo reports on a remarkable Italian renaissance

With the Moggiopoli referee-allocation scandal raging, Italy had to brave some pretty bizarre circumstances on the way to becoming world champions. Gianluigi Buffon had to leave the pre-tournament training camp to talk to magistrates about allegations of illegal gambling. A fortnight before kick-off consumer groups were calling for Marcello Lippi’s head because his son Davide is under criminal investigation. The Italian Football Federation (FIGC) prosecutor requested that Juventus be relegated two divisions and that AC Milan, Lazio and Fiorentina be sent down to Serie B for match-fixing the day before the semi-final with Germany. If that were not enough, the team also had to digest the upsetting news of a suicide attempt by Juventus’s recently appointed sports director Gianluca Pessotto, a former Azzurro and a friend of many players.

Having beaten England, Portugal found themselves within a game of the World Cup final. Phil Town captures the mood in Portugal

Speaking some time back at a conference on motivation, Luiz Felipe Scolari told the story of his first days with the Selecção in 2002. He got the players together and asked them to imagine the team as a truck and to consider what part of the truck each of them thought they represented. He found that what he had inherited from António Oliveira was a truck with four drivers and a wheel missing. Six months later, the same experiment came up with just two drivers and all the wheels in place.

After their embarrassing exit in the group stages in 2002, France atoned for their errors by reaching the final. Neil McCarthy gauges the reaction across the channel

There’s a hard lesson to learn from the performances in the 1998 and 2006 World Cups: the less the French public think of their team, the better they do. Victory in one World Cup then reaching another final is a record that surely any country outside Brazil would be jealous of. But as 2002 proved, it only happens to France if the supporters really believe it won’t.

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