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Back of the Net's alternative World Cup 2006: Cote d’Ivoire (or is that Ivory Coast?), Materazzi's nipples

Germany 2006 saw an unfortunate lack of goals, upsets and classic matches, and a glut of penalty shootouts, red cards and Switzerland. But thanks to its stereotypically excellent organisation and celebratory atmosphere, the tournament was widely considered a success, despite the closing concert featuring only one tenor instead of the regulation three.

The trophy was won by Italy, who were inspired by Juventus stars Fabio Cannavaro and Gianluigi Buffon, and their entirely baseless sense of grievance following the Calciopoli affair. 

Debut season

Eight nations qualified for the finals for the first time, including Togo, Ghana, Serbia & Montenegro and Cote d’Ivoire. It was later revealed, however, that Cote d’Ivoire had also qualified as the Ivory Coast and been drawn in Group C and Group D simultaneously, with a strong possibility of playing itself in the second round. It also emerged that Serbia & Montenegro were plainly two countries, not one, which caused widespread embarrassment and a constitutional rethink in Belgrade and Podgorica.

Unprecedented cards

Germany ‘06 set a new record for the number of cards shown at a tournament, with an average of over five yellows per match. In one notorious encounter between Portugal and the Netherlands, referee Valentin Ivanov showed 16 yellow cards, four red cards, and one lilac card, which Ivanov invented on the spot especially to show to Khalid ‘The Cannibal’ Boulahrouz for persistent cannibalism. Three days earlier, Graham Poll infamously lost count of the number of cards he had shown to Josip Simunic, booking the Croatian on 27 separate occasions before finally sending him off.

Controversy dogs the WAGs

England were among the favourites as the World Cup began, but the distractions posed by Sven-Goran Eriksson’s impending departure, the notorious WAGs and, most of all, Portugal proved impossible to overcome. The much-vaunted ‘Golden Generation’ of Paul Robinson, Jermaine Jenas and Stewart Downing saw their hopes dashed once again by penalties. Star striker Wayne Rooney was sent off for stamping on Ricardo Carvalho’s testicles, having mistaken them for Cristiano Ronaldo’s. Eriksson left his post with a widely mocked record of three consecutive quarter-finals, and the FA appointed Steve McClaren to take the team to the next level.

Situationist art prank

After arriving in Germany in familiar disarray, France had gradually improved through the tournament. Veterans like Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram and Claude Makelele managed to drown out the instructions from avant-garde provocateur Raymond Domenech, who was managing the team as a situationist prank. 

Facing them in the final were Italy, a team of players everyone thought were rubbish but who turned out to be really good, like Luca Toni, Mauro Camoranesi and Marco Materazzi. With the game 1-1 in extra time, Zidane became so incensed by Materazzi’s failure to be rubbish that he headbutted him in the nipples, and France were disqualified as a result. Zidane immediately retired and went to play fußball with Pele and Diego Maradona. He declared afterwards that he was sorry but had no regrets, which obviously means he wasn’t sorry at all.