The Team: I am sure many of you would argue that I only have the 2006 Italian National Team in the #1 spot because of the recency of their World Cup win, but I disagree. The team was better than any of the other three teams that hoisted the trophy, they faced tougher competition, and they were more dominant. They deserve this honor.
Coach Marcello Lippi had many of the world’s greatest players on his roster, including Gianluigi Buffon, Fabio Cannavaro, Alessandro Del Piero, Gennaro Gattuso and Francesco Totti, just to name a few. As always, the squad was composed of players from Serie A giants, with Juventus and Milan having the most men selected with five each.
The Tournament: Just as in 1982, the team was distracted by a Serie A match-fixing scandal, but this time they did not look flat early on. Despite playing in the “Group of Death” with the Czechs (win), Ghana (win) and the US (tie), they finished at the top of the group. In fact, the only goal they conceded during the round was an own goal to the US.
Over the next three rounds, Italy would continue to shut out their opponents (Australia, Ukraine and the German hosts) with their stifling defense. They met France in the Final and the stage was set for what would soon become a World Cup classic. Though the game would be enveloped in controversy, one cannot overlook Italy’s amazing play.
We all recall what happened on July 9, 2006. It is now part of world sport’s history. France’s Zidane struck first on an early penalty, but Marco Materrazi leveled the score 12 minutes later. Later, Zidane head-butted Materrazi and was sent off. After extra time ended in a tie, Italy prevailed 5-3 on penalties with Grosso’s PK cementing the Cup victory.
The 2006 Italian World Cup squad is the only one in history to have never conceded a goal during the regular run of play (the only two goals they gave up were an own goal and a penalty). Their tactics were flawless and their teamwork resulted in them hoisting the trophy for the fourth time. I think they were the greatest ITA World Cup team ever.
If you disagree with me about the squads I selected or the way I have them ranked, let me hear about it in the comments. I hope you have enjoyed this series on the finest Italian World Cup squads in the nation’s long history. Please keep coming back to SATO for more of the best news, commentary, and analysis on the interwebs. Peace.