On July 9, 2006, Zinedine Zidane’s illustrious 17-year international career came to a heartbreaking and bitter ending after being sent off in the World Cup final for headbutting Marco Materazzi.
France were denied their second World Cup title while Italy who went on to be crowned champions for the fourth time, winning 5-3 on penalties. The discussion about that day in the years to follow has invariably been about Zidane’s moment of madness.
But, the triumph was a dream come true for many players of the Italian team that possessed several world-class talents, but most of all, midfielder Andrea Pirlo.
Before winning the World Cup, the deep-lying playmaker had already made a name for himself at the club level with Inter and AC Milan. By then, Pirlo had already emerged as one of the better central midfielders in the world, having won the Serie A and the Champions League,
Pirlo, a midfield architect who possessed brilliant passing accuracy and a wonderful vision, however, was yet to win a major title with the national side.
Making an exit from the 2002 World Cup co-hosted by Japan and South Korea, there was pressure on the Italians when they arrived at the 2006 World Cup, more so on Pirlo, who was making his first appearance at the event.
But the midfielder emerged as a key cog for the Azzuri, who went all the way at the 2006 World Cup and finished unbeaten at the tournament. Pirlo featured in all seven matches for Italy at the 2006 World Cup contributing one goal and three assists.
He played a massive role in the final which went into extra-time, stepping up to score the first penalty for Italy, who won 5-3 in the end. At the World Cup in Germany, Pirlo ended with the Player of the Match award thrice, more than any other player. He was later named in the tournament’s All-Star squad.
He had once famously said that he was sleeping and playing Playstation ahead of the final but winning it was, of course, a feeling like no other. From playing in the streets of Brescia, to scripting history with the national team, it was an emotional moment for the boy who once dreamt.
“When I went back to the dressing room, I took my phone and called my parents back home. We all started crying on the phone,” Pirlo told Fifa.
The midfielder also said that lifting the trophy is a feeling unmatched for any footballer.
“I think it’s the best thing in the world for a footballer. When you manage to lift the trophy, many things go through your mind. It almost doesn’t seem real that you have it in your hands because it’s something so great and so hard to achieve that you wonder if it’s really happening,” he added.
Watch him talk about winning the 2006 World Cup final here: