Ranked! The 10 best players of World Cup 2006
Nuno Ricardo de Oliveira Ribeiro – nicknamed Maniche after legendary 6ft 5in Danish Benfica battleaxe Michael Manniche thanks to his thunderbolt finish – stoked the Portuguese engine room as they chugged to the semi-finals.
Despite a distinct lack of action on loan at Chelsea in 2005/06, the tireless long-haired midfielder was a standout performer as they beat Holland 1-0 in the last 16, and then eliminated England on penalties after a goalless quarter-final. France edged past them 1-0 to make the final, but Maniche’s midfield majesty had been noticed. He joined Atletico Madrid after the tournament.
9. Ze Roberto
The Seleção had a forgettable World Cup by their standards, easing through the group and past Ghana in the last 16, but flopping badly against France in the quarters. Ze Roberto was their undoubted top performer, beating men brilliantly with his dribbles in front of Roberto Carlos, and often outshining the more celebrated Ronaldinho and Ronaldo.
It was a fine swansong to an 11-year Brazil career spanning 84 matches; a real shame that one of the side’s most skilful performers never earned a winners’ medal after being dropped from the squad in 2002.
8. Ricardo Carvalho
A mainstay of the Portuguese defence that regularly menaced the latter stages of big tournaments, Carvalho was probably the finest stopper at Euro 2004 and took his sensational form to Germany, where an extremely mean backline only conceded two goals from open play all tournament.
Goalkeeper Ricardo certainly played a blinder to help with that stat, but Carvalho’s Baresi-like reading of the game was at the heart of Portugal's impenetrability.
7. Lilian Thuram
The hardest individual in the world named Lilian, Thuram had actually retired before World Cup 2006, but was convinced to reverse his decision and come back for ‘one last job’ by manager Raymond Domenech. He played so well that he even stayed on for Euro 2008, eventually becoming France’s most-capped player.
Throughout Les Bleus' dizzying highs, dreadful lows and petty bickering from '94 to '08, Thuram remained an untouchable paragon of decency and dignity. He was also a bugger to get past, and the crux of a sturdy Gallic defence that looked solid all the way to the final.
6. Miroslav Klose
Klose was much loved, and consistently prolific, throughout a club career with Kaiserslautern, Werder Bremen, Bayern Munich and Lazio, but strangely has never quite been held in the same regard internationally as some of his era’s other top forwards. Ask a pal to nominate the best German player of recent years and you’ll hear a lot of calls for Kahn, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, Ballack or Muller before someone mentions poor old Miroslav.
Perhaps it’s because he was unflashy, but his ludicrous scoring record for Germany (he is their all-time top scorer) and astonishing World Cup all-time record speak for themselves. His no-nonsense, Golden Boot-winning form was crucial at Germany’s home tournament – particularly his equaliser in the quarters against Argentina. A giant of the game.