Monday 04 July 2016, 13:36

The wall, the wizard & the watchman: Italy’s 2006 triumph

The FIFA World Football Museum in Zurich celebrates many of the FIFA World Cup™’s heroes and famous faces. In the World Cup Gallery, every edition has its own showcase, filled with a selection of unique objects that help tell the story of the world’s most popular single sporting event. But when it comes to the showcase on the 2006 World Cup, three names in particular take center stage: Gianluigi Buffon, Andrea Pirlo and Marcello Lippi.

The Wall Buffon is a veteran of four FIFA World Cups: 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. He was also called up in 1998 but didn’t make an appearance. But it is the tournament that took place in Germany that lingers longest in the memory. And Buffon’s scarlet shirt from that triumphant 2006 campaign now takes pride of place in the museum.

A goalkeeper in imperious form, he conceded just one goal from open play throughout the entire 2006 World Cup; a sliced Cristian Zaccardo own goal in the Group E clash against USA.

The one-handed save he made in the Final to keep out a Zinedine Zidane header with the score level was just one of his many tournament highlights – though the mercurial French playmaker had beaten him earlier with a chipped penalty. This was the only other goal that Buffon conceded, excluding penalty shootouts, over the course of the tournament.

His towering performances saw him named the tournament’s best goalkeeper and, with these statistics, he was the obvious candidate for this award.

The Wizard For Pirlo, there can be no greater reminder of his passing mastery than the pair of boots that he wore throughout that 2006 World Cup. And what a tournament he had, being named Germany 2006’s third-best player behind Fabio Cannavaro and Zidane.

A metronomic presence, the then 27-year-old was Italy’s main attacking threat throughout the tournament. After scoring Italy’s first goal, a long-range effort against Ghana in the team’s opening game, Pirlo went on to assist four others and won a tournament-high three man-of-the-match awards – including for the Final itself.

Perhaps his most significant contribution, however, came with his no-look pass to assist Fabio Grosso, 119 minutes deep into the semi-final against Germany.

Picking up the loose ball from a corner - awarded after his own stinging shot - the midfielder found time for five touches, despite facing four defenders intent on stopping him. He waited, then waited some more, delaying the release of the ball until the perfect moment.

When it came, his pass cuts through the Germans, finding an unmarked Grosso inside the box. The left back duly curled his first-time shot into the corner of the net, and reeled off in celebrations reminiscent of Marco Tardelli in 1982.

A beautiful goal, crafted by the right boot of Andrea Pirlo. A boot that is now on show for all sports fans in Zurich.

The Watchman It seems like the entire globe watches the World Cup, but nobody sees the tournament and its teams quite like their managers. On this note, it is the glasses of Marcello Lippi that are honoured at the museum – and there is a unique story behind to them too.

Ten years earlier, Lippi successfully led Juventus to the final of the 1995/6 UEFA Champions League. Playing against Ajax, his side took an early lead but the Dutch side drew level to force extra-time and then penalties – which Juventus won 4-2.

Amid the chaos of the resulting celebrations Lippi lost his glasses. He would later find them lying shattered on the pitch.

In 2006, he would not make the same error. Despite having guided his country to its first World Cup title for 24 years, Lippi maintained his composure. While being wildly congratulated by his team after Grosso's winning penalty, he coolly removed his glasses and placed them carefully on the substitute’s bench.

In a funny way, it's almost a measure of the man; he learned from past experiences and came up with a strategy to make sure mistakes would not be repeated. In doing so, he guided his team to lift the World Cup trophy - and saved his glasses too. The same pair of glasses that you see in the museum’s showcase.