Jurgen Klinsmann (GER)
Under attack from all sides before the tournament started for
his side's poor form and his decision to continue to reside in the
United States, Klinsmann quickly turned things around. His youthful
team rallied national support behind them and they responded until
two late goals from Italy ended their hopes just minutes from the
final. Everyone in Germany wants him to stay on, but for the moment
he is being non-committal.
Gianluigi Buffon (ITA)
Italy's outstanding goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, in hot water
before the tournament over his alleged betting on matches, proved
his worth as he brilliantly saved a late Zinedine Zidane header to
keep the Italians on course for victory. Only conceded two goals
throughout the event - an unfortunate own goal against the United
States and then Zidane's penalty to lay claim to the title of best
shot-stopper in the world.
Fabio Grosso (ITA)
Italy defender Fabio Grosso insisted throughout that the Serie A
match-fixing scandal had a galvanizing effect on the World Cup
squad as they sought and found strength in adversity.
It was Grosso who fell over Lucas Neill in the penalty area in
injury-time of the second round match with Australia for the
penalty that clinched their place in the quarter-finals.
The 29-year-old Palermo left-back then scored a beauty against
Germany in the semis and converted the penalty which won the
Marcello Lippi (ITA)
Italy coach Marcello Lippi steered his side through to glory -
no mean feat considering the ongoing Serie A matchfixing tribunal
and the apparent suicide attempt by former Juventus and Italy
fullback Gianluca Pessotto.
He even had to ride out a squall prior to the finals with some
calling for him to step down after allegations, which he firmly
denied, that he was forced by former Juventus general manager
Luciano Moggi senior to select certain players for the national
Keeper Gianluigi Buffon put the Italian revival down to Lippi's
"humility and intelligence" and his ability to "stimulate the
players to such a degree that everyone gives 120 percent."
Lippi dubbed the win "the greatest satisfaction I have ever
experienced in my career."
Luiz Felipe Scolari (BRA)
Did not manage to double up as a World Cup winning coach with
Portugal, but his tactical acumen and sheer physical presence from
the touchline acted like an extra man for his side as they battled
past the Netherlands and England into the semi-finals for the first
time since 1966. A Zinedine Zidane penalty put paid to the his
hopes, but Scolari left Germany with his head held high and his
reputation enhanced as one of the most effective and shrewdest
coaches in the world. Left it open-ended whether he will stay on in
The Brazilian maestro came into the tournament touted to be the
brightest star in the samba galaxy and set to steal the show. He
and his side left prematurely after being outplayed by France and
Zinedine Zidane in the quarter-finals. The signs though had been
there prior to that. The Barcelona ball-juggler had looked
ill-at-ease with the tactics set down by coach Carlos Alberto
Parreira. Angry Brazilian fans in the southern town of Chapeco
vented their frustrations by destroying a seven-metre tall statue
of the World Player of the Year.
Zinedine Zidane (FRA)
The hero of the 1998 World Cup final returned to duty and
proceeded at 34 to prove he is the best player of his generation
after a slow start. But then Zizou ruined it all with his sending
off in the final as the French finally crashed to a shootout defeat
against the Italians.
Started slowly and picked up a pair of yellow cards but after a
one-match suspension the real "Zizou" burst back on to centre-stage
as a virtuoso performance saw off Brazil and he then kept his nerve
to score the penalty winner against Portugal in the semi-final.
The most popular man in France since his two goals in the 1998
final he now heads off into retirement much admired for his skills
- but having shown his temperamental flaws.
David Beckham (ENG)
Came here as skipper of the best England World Cup squad in many
years with the stated ambition of emulating Bobby Moore's masterful
1966 champions. Got off to the best of possible starts when his
fourth minute free-kick resulted in a Paraguay own goal. It all
went downhill after that. England made it through the group stages
but Beckham was largely anonymous. They were found out in the
quarter-finals against Portugal where Beckham was taken off with an
ankle injury and he watched tearfully from the toucline as a
penalty shootout once again sent England home.
Luis Aragones (ESP)
The combative 67-year-old Spanish coach had a wonderfully
talented young Spanish side at his disposal as he pledged to end
his country's history of under-achievement at the World Cup by at
least reaching the semi-finals. They got off to a great start by
overwhelming Ukraine 4-0 and took maximum points from their group.
Then took the lead against France in the last 16 match but were
helpless as Zinedine Zidane's men suddenly rediscovered their 1998
style and spirit to turn the match around. Aragones was left
holding his head in his hands.
Ruud van Nistelrooy (NED)
Came to the World Cup with his future at Manchester United
looking pretty much over after a row with the unforgiving Sir Alex
Ferguson but was bolstered by national handler Marco van Basten,
who said he would start and he had supreme faith in him. However
three lifeless displays - even though he scored in the 2-1 win over
Ivory Coast - forced van Basten's hand and the 30-year-old was
dropped for the second round match with Portugal. Despite trailing
1-0 he was not called upon, van Basten preferring to send on Jan
Vennegoor of Hesselink.
(China Daily July 11, 2006)