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Last Updated: Monday, 10 July 2006, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK
How good was the 2006 World Cup?
By Jonathan Stevenson

Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro with the World Cup trophy
Cannavaro won the World Cup on his 100th appearance for Italy

The 2006 Fifa World Cup drew to a close on Sunday with Italy claiming their fourth crown after beating France in a penalty shoot-out.

But has this World Cup been a success for football or just for the hosts, Germany?

NEW STARS ARE BORN

In 1990 it was Roberto Baggio. In 1994 it was Romario. In 1998 it was Zinedine Zidane. In 2002 it was Ronaldinho.

Great players have a tendency to emerge at the World Cup, where people from across the globe can watch them express their talent on the biggest stage of all.

It happened to the great Pele in 1958, the mercurial Johan Cruyff in 1974 and the legendary Diego Maradona in 1986.

This World Cup in Germany has witnessed plenty of promising players, but there has been a genuine dearth of quality.

GOLDEN BALL AWARD NOMINEES
Michael Ballack
Gianluigi Buffon
Fabio Cannavaro
Thierry Henry
Miroslav Klose
Maniche
Andrea Pirlo
Patrick Vieira
Gianluca Zambrotta
Zinedine Zidane

If the world's richest club in the transfer market, Chelsea, was looking for the player of the tournament to add to its illustrious squad, who would it choose?

Ghana's Sulley Muntari and Asamoah Gyan stood out, as did Ivory Coast's Bakari Kone and Argentina's Maxi Rodriguez - scorer of one of the most wonderful World Cup goals in living memory.

But none of these players was even among the 10 shortlisted for the Golden Ball award, given to the tournament's outstanding player.

Of those 10, three are over 30 and the average age is 29.3. Going into the World Cup they all had major tournament experience.

Verdict: A disappointing World Cup, with few real breakthroughs.

CLASSIC MATCHES

The group stages were promising to say the least. A series of stunning goals seemed to set up the rest of the tournament and threaten to set the World Cup on fire.

But it failed to truly spark. The knockout stages were full of games that failed to deliver, with negative coaches cancelling each other out and the goals drying up as a result.

Switzerland take three terrible penalties and bow out
Switzerland played for penalties - and then blew them

Great players make great games - how will anyone ever forget the way Pele's Brazil outclassed Italy in the 1970 final, or Maradona single-handedly led Argentina to victory over England in 1986?

This time round, classic encounters have been hard to find.

In the second round, Argentina and Mexico played out a hugely entertaining game that was settled in extra-time by Rodriguez's thunderbolt from the blue.

In the semi-finals, Italy broke the hearts of the host nation with two goals in the very last minute of extra-time, after going all-out for a win to avoid the risk of facing the Germans in a penalty shoot-out.

WORLD CUP BLOG
Phil's World Cup awards

Very good games, but were either of them classics? Are they the games that people will tell their grandchildren about when the World Cup crops up in conversation?

Unlikely. So why so few games to set the pulse racing?

Coaches such as Sven-Goran Eriksson seem so afraid of losing that many are happy to settle for extra-time and penalties because it at least gives them a 50-50 chance and no-one can blame them if their team loses.

Take the Swiss. Rarely has a team ever played with less inclination to attack than Kobi Kuhn's team in their second-round contest against World Cup newcomers Ukraine.

They played for penalties, and got them. They then proceeded to take three of the worst spot-kicks in the history of football and were on the next plane back home.

Verdict: Cautious coaches do not make for classic games.

CLASSIC GOALS

Barely six minutes were on the clock in the opening game between Germany and Costa Rica when Philipp Lahm cut in from the left and curled a beauty into the top corner of Jose Porras' net.

That goal set the tone for the rest of the tournament.

Argentina lit up Group C with some great efforts, most notably Esteban Cambiasso's clinical finish against Serbia & Montenegro after a mouth-watering team move of 24 faultless passes.

Maxi Rodriguez scores against Mexico
Maxi scores a wonder goal to earn Argentina victory over Mexico

Bakari Kone ran the length of the pitch before scoring against Holland; Joe Cole chested down and thumped home from 35 yards; Rodriguez wrote his name into World Cup folklore.

Yet, Rodriguez apart, the knockout stages failed to provide the kind of inspiration the World Cup is crying out for. Nine of Match of the Day's 10 goals of the tournament came from the group stages.

Goals dried up and players stopped shooting from 30 yards, preferring instead to pass the ball square so the team did not concede possession.

Even Fifa president Sepp Blatter raised concerns about the lack of goals produced by the world's finest footballers.

"The football isn't that bad, but there aren't enough goals - and, when there are too few goals, the public isn't very enthusiastic," said Blatter.

"The essence of the game is goals. If it's an open game, there is enough room for 11 players, but with 11 defenders there is not enough space."

Thank goodness then for Italians Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero, scorers of the beautifully-taken semi-final goals that did for Germany.

Verdict: Plenty of stunners to savour even if they did dry up.

SHOCK VALUE

Every World Cup needs a seismic shock to get the tournament going and warn the big teams they are not going to have it all their own way.

Cameroon stunned holders Argentina in the opening game of 1990, Senegal did the same to France in 2002.

Ghana striker Asamoah Gyan scores the opener against Czech Republic
Asamoah Gyan celebrates scoring for Ghana against Czech Rep

Ghana did their best with a terrific 2-0 win over the Czech Republic to open up Group E, before tamely exiting the competition 3-0 at the hands of Brazil in the second round.

Was Ghana even that much of a shock? We know all about the midfield dynamism of Chelsea's Michael Essien, and in captain Stephen Appiah they had a player who enjoyed a successful two-year spell with Juventus.

Maybe that is the problem. Football has become much more global, and what might once have been a shock barely even registers now, so well do we know the major characters of even the lesser teams.

The same can be said of the bigger teams - the Brazilians, the Argentines.

606 VIEW
CN

Whereas once the players would mostly play for teams in their own country, these days the vast majority of them already play in Europe by the time they feature in their first World Cup.

There is little or no mystique left, and the globalisation of football shows no sign of slowing down.

Why did we expect so much from Ronaldinho? Because we can see him play week-in, week-out for Champions League winners Barcelona and know him to be the finest footballer on the planet.

Blanket coverage of English and European football all-year-round has left little to the imagination.

Verdict: No alarms and no surprises.

ICONIC IMAGES

It is never just about the games and the goals.

Fabio Grosso celebrates his goal for Italy in the semi-final against Germany
Grosso scores top marks for his impression of Marco Tardelli

Cast your mind back to 1974 and Johan Cruyff's turn that so bemused Swedish right-back Gunnar Olsson. Or 1990 and Cameroonian Roger Milla's twinkle-toes celebrations.

These are images that will forever linger in the memory, that will be used time and again on television archive to show the World Cup finals in all its glory.

This year's World Cup may have been bereft of iconic players, but it has certainly had its fair share of iconic images.

Germany coach Jurgen Klinsmann kicked it all off, the former Spurs striker jumping around deliriously whenever his team found the back of the net - 14 times in all, making them the tournament's leading scorers.

Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo may have been cast as the villain of the piece, but his gesture to the referee after Wayne Rooney's foul and subsequent wink to the bench after Rooney's red card have come to define another England exit.

Zinedine Zidane headbutts Marco Materazzi in the final
Zidane headbutts Materazzi - his last act as a footballer

Not forgetting Rooney's temper tantrum after being substituted against Sweden, Luis Figo's headbutt on Mark van Bommel, Philippe Senderos being covered in blood after scoring against South Korea or Fabio Grosso's impression of Marco Tardelli after his semi-final strike.

But Zidane saved the image that will haunt him for the rest of his life until 10 minutes from the end of extra-time in a remarkable final against Italy.

His last act as a footballer was to shove his head into the chest of Marco Materazzi, and with that his career, and France's World Cup dream, ended.

Verdict: With every moment captured on camera, there have been some unforgettable pictures transmitted across the globe.



VOTE RESULTS
Will England qualify for Euro 2008?
Yes
 25.64% 
No
 74.36% 
1595 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


SEE ALSO
Zidane off as Italy win World Cup
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Klose finishes as leading scorer
09 Jul 06 |  Germany
Zidane's red mist
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006
Triumph from despair
09 Jul 06 |  Italy
Fans soak up amazing finale
09 Jul 06 |  World Cup 2006


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