2006 World Cup: The Battle of Nuremberg
|More cards than at Christmas|
Prior to the knockout rounds of the 2006 World Cup, the tournament was proving to be somewhat of a footballing success. Unlike the defensive and timid nature of the last World Cup in South Africa, the German tournament provided a more attacking a diverse group stage. Of course there was the odd goalless draw and scrappy 1-0, but the opening match between Germany and Costa Rica set the pace after a breathless 4-2 win for the Germans.
|THAT goal from Frings|
Portugal were given a kinder draw, with Mexico their only real challenger. Minnows Angola and Iran completed the group. Portugal would go on to secure victory in all three matches. Pauleta scoring against Angola in a 1-0 triumph before a sublime Deco finish and a 21-year-old Cristiano Ronaldo penalty were the scourge of a poor Iran side. Finally The 3-1 win over Mexico showed the Portuguese "Golden Generation meant business. With players like Luis Figo, Deco and Maniche in their side, a title challenge could be on its way.
Nuremberg - The stage was set for the Dutch and Portuguese, two great footballing nations. The crowd expected goals and beautiful football, what it received was anything but. The night before had seen Argentina and Mexico battle out a thrilling, end-to-end match, resulting in a 2-1 win for the Argentines and a quite breath-taking goal from former Liverpool man Maxi Rodriguez. However, it took just 2 minutes on the clock in Nuremberg for the tone to be set. An awful tackle on danger man Ronaldo highlighted how he dutch would approach the game, somewhat similar to the tactics deployed four years on in Soccer City.
|A similar problem for the Dutch 4 years later|
"It was an extremely difficult game. We were good in the first half. After we started playing with nine men it was a lot of work."
H/T CARD COUNT: HOL - 2 yellows POR - 3 yellows 1 red
The second half continued where the first left off, with cynical fouls and bookings for first Petit and then Van Bronckhorst. The latter prompted a fracas between players of both sides. The legendary Luis Figo even headbutting Van Bommel who's reaction was in some ways comical. How Figo stayed on the pitch is a mystery escaping with only a yellow, before himself going down easy after being caught by Boulahrouz's elbow. Another melee and another red card, this time for the Dutch right-back.
"It was an open and very spectacular game but we could not score a goal."
Marco Van Basten
|Portugal would finish in 4th place|
F/T CARD COUNT - HOL 7 yellows 2 red - POR - 9 yellows 2 red
The game was recently ranked as the World Cup's "39th Most Shocking Moment" by the BBC for their countdown before the 2010 World Cup. The 2006 World Cup would go on to witness the ugly scenes in Berlin when the German and Argentine teams clashed following a tense penalty shootout. The tournament would however create a most memorable final. After Portugal were knocked out by France and Italy defeated Germany in an epic in Dortmund, the Italians would lift the trophy, defeating the French on penalties following the unbelievable red card to Zinedine Zidane for his headbutt on Marco Materazzi. The 2006 tournament is now remembered for the headbutt as a violent reminder, but the Battle of Nuremberg will live long in the memory as a tragic example of fair-play and a sense of deja vu for the Dutch.
|The "Violent" World Cup?|
Luis Felipe Scolari
"It was a very intense match, both teams were considered title contenders, thus no one wanted to lose and go home"
"This was a game of emotion, with exceptional drama in the last instant, with a deserved winner,"