Analysing moyes successors by Jake Doyle

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David Moyes became the shortest serving post-war Manchester United manager as they sacked their first manager in little under twenty-years a year exactly to the day they claimed their 20th Premier League crown against Aston Villa with a Robin van Persie hat-trick.

Just under ten months into a six-year contract, the former Preston and Everton manager looks to be giving a one-year payout of £10 million due to the club’s failure to reach the Champions League, just a year after Sir Alex Ferguson announced his retirement and told the fans and players to get behind their new manager.

The rumour mill has been thrown into overdrive with departing Holland manager, Louis van Gaal who has won league titles all over Europe in Holland, Germany and Spain whilst owning a Champions League winners’ medal, guiding Ajax to the crown in 1995. Van Gaal is the most experienced option for the Manchester United board as the elder van Gaal is well travelled across Europe.

However, with a major re-building job to take place over the summer for Manchester United, whether van Gaal will be entirely focussed on the job whilst he works for the Dutch national side at the summer’s World Cup remains to be seen.

The 62-year old, widely thought to become the new Tottenham Hotspur manager as well, is swiftly followed by Ryan Giggs, who now occupies the interim role at the club. Giggs, who only holds coaching badges and has taken up a player/coach role upon Moyes’ arrival in July last year.

The most decorated player in Old Trafford history, however, holds no managerial experience and it would be a huge risk to select another manager without any experience of winning major trophies as a manager, much like Giggs’ predecessor was.

Borussia Dortmund manager, Jurgen Klopp also remains a frontrunner for the job, joining Giggs at 10/1 with the bookmakers.

Klopp is a bit a younger than van Gaal and has had his fair share of European and domestic experience with a relatively young Dortmund side which he built up from scratch, when the 46-year old took over Dortmund in 2008.

The German took Dortmund to their second Champions League final in 2013 whilst beating Bayern Munich to two Bundesliga titles amongst their dominant years. Klopp has built the ideal structure around Dortmund only to see players such as Mario Gotze and Robert Lewandowski, two key stalwarts in the side, switch their allegiances to their main title rivals and current Champions League holders, Bayern Munich.

Amongst the frontrunners is a largely European dominated field, as Manchester United look set to cast their eyes further than the British Isles to look for a manager for the first time in their history. The outsiders include the ever-successful Pep Guardiola who further improved Barcelona and looks to mould Bayern Munich into a similar powerhouse in continental Europe.

Diego Simeone, who like Jurgen Klopp, is a younger model, has guided Atletico Madrid to successive Champions League campaigns. With Simeone’s clash with United favourite David Beckham at the 1998 World Cup largely forgotten, the 43-year old took Atletico to their first European Cup semi-final for four decades this year as he faces Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea, who is an extreme outsider to replace David Moyes.

The Special One was overlooked by Sir Alex Ferguson and the board last summer, opting to leave Spain to return home to Stamford Bridge and despite a season which could result in a lack of trophies; it looks very unlikely for Mourinho to switch allegiances so dramatically.

As the past year has told us, experience, particularly in Europe, is much needed if you are to take on the job at Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson, before he became the manager at Old Trafford, and indeed a sir, won the Cup Winners’ Cup with Aberdeen against the mighty Real Madrid. David Moyes took Everton through several UEFA Cup and Europa League campaigns, with a solitary unsuccessful Champions League qualification campaign in 2005-06.

An inescapable fault of Moyes’ was that he was following one of the greatest football managers of all-time, the most successful at least, and attempting to shadow the previous twenty-seven years of dominance and trophies, was always an impossibility. The successor to Moyes will be under significantly less pressure next season, to the extent that even an inexperienced Ryan Giggs could coast through the next four games.

In conclusion, Manchester United are craving the emulation of Klopp’s model at Borussia Dortmund, which draws its similarities from the empire that Fergie built, but it could come down a comparison between the development and re-structuring that Klopp would no doubt bring to Old Trafford and the gallons of trophies which Louis van Gaal has acquired down the years.

Manchester United are a long-term club, or at least were prior to the 2013-14 season, so their ideal new manager, on the face of it, would be the younger Jurgen Klopp, who still holds success in Germany and is held in high regard in Europe. Louis van Gaal, at sixty-two, would be a quick-fix for success, whilst Klopp could become unavailable if van Gaal was to retire as United manager in the future.

Gerrard deserves the player of the year award by Jake Doyle

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The Liverpool trio of captain, Steven Gerrard and striker partners Daniel Sturridge and Luis Suarez have been nominated for the prestigious PFA Player of the Year after Brendan Rodgers guided the 18-time English champions into the Champions League for the first time in five years.

Luis Suarez is on course to break Alan Shearer’s and Cristiano Ronaldo’s goalscoring record in a 38-game Premier League season of thirty-one goals after going to within one of the record in the 3-2 win at relegation strugglers Norwich City on Sunday afternoon. Meanwhile, Daniel Sturridge remains the highest scoring English scorer this season, shortly followed by Wayne Rooney and crocked Jay Rodriguez.

However, the retreated role of Steven Gerrard into a deeper, quarterback-like role has been the biggest revelation in a season which included a newly-found SAS in Sturridge and Suarez. There is an added component of Raheem Sterling who has chipped in with nine league goals and has made his international debut this year along with gaining a nomination for the young player of the year award.

Irrespective of Liverpool claiming their first top flight league title in twenty-four years, Steven Gerrard should add to his 2006 award in the same category. Between the three Liverpool nominees, they should add to the likes of Terry McDermott, Kenny Dalglish, Ian Rush and John Barnes, as Liverpool players to have picked up the award.

Gerrard, who has scored thirteen league goals this season, has spurred his side onto their biggest chance at a league title in his career, albeit with a large percentage of those coming from the penalty spot.

Looking towards his opponents, or rather teammates, they have netted fifty between them, a record which would have them tie level with Southampton as the division’s eighth highest goalscorers, only a goal shy of Tottenham. Suarez should win the golden boot award, scoring ten more than his strike partner and all of this after the biting debacle which saw him miss the first five games of the league season, meaning he averages a goal a game in the league.

The other candidates for the award are the outsiders in Chelsea’s Eden Hazard who has broken through as Mourinho’s star man this season, netting fourteen in the league whilst England World Cup hopeful and Southampton playmaker, Adam Lallana and 18-goal and set-piece king Yaya Toure make up the six nominees.

Yaya Toure remains the only threat to break up the Liverpool trio, as he has in the goalscoring charts, scoring great goals along the way, in particular the goal in the League Cup final against Sunderland in a 3-1 win. He has goals in the double figures from set-pieces as he turned his attention to free-kick taking, whilst also scoring some crucial goals along the way, a goal in a 3-0 rout at Old Trafford for one.

Meanwhile, Adam Lallana, along with the others which make up the English quartet in the Southampton ranks, has helped the south coasters to equal their record Premier League position, which they are well on course to do so.

The PFA’s other prestigious award, the young player of the year award, is also dominated by Merseyside as Daniel Sturridge and Raheem Sterling racked up a nomination in the red half whilst Ross Barkley broke through at Everton to make the shortlisted six players.

Other nominees include Eden Hazard, England debutant Luke Shaw and Aaron Ramsey, who unfortunately had the latter part of his season hampered by injury, but for all intents and purposes, was a front runner for the main award after his early season form.

The Welsh playmaker helped inflict one of Liverpool’s five defeats in a 2-0 victory at the Emirates in November and scored his nine league goals in a man of the match return to the Arsenal ranks on Sunday against Hull in a 3-0 win.

The outsiders contain Luke Shaw as the 18-year old has pushed through into the forefront of Roy Hodgson’s mind with some great performances from left-back down on the south coast, helping Southampton almost achieve a European spot in their second season back in the top flight of English football.

Meanwhile, personal highlights from Ross Barkley’s season include the opening day stunning strike against Norwich City and the wonder goal against Newcastle in March which instantly threw up the comparisons between himself and the England legend Paul Gascoigne. After being on the fringes of the squad for the past two seasons and a couple of loan spells in Yorkshire, Barkley has mounted a serious challenge to earn a spot on the England plane for the World Cup in Brazil this summer. Also, Barkley has helped Everton to be taken seriously in the Premier League, hoping for their first Champions League appearance since their qualification knockout in 2005 as they currently battle Arsenal for fourth place and have broken their record points tally for a Premier League season.

The favourite for the young player of the year should remain in Merseyside with the Liverpool duo of Sturridge and Sterling whilst Eden Hazard should be regarded as a frontrunner for the award.

Does the Football League hold more drama than the Premier League? by Jake Doyle

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Good Friday delivered yet another stunning afternoon of fixtures, particularly at the top of the League One ladder as Brentford confirmed their return to the second tier of English football for the first time in twenty-one years.

The games at Griffin Park and the thriller between promoted club, Wolves and Rotherham who are hoping to follow in their footsteps proved that even outside of the Premier League, English football can serve up dramatic circumstances.

After the top of the table clash in the Premier League between Liverpool and Manchester City and all of the underlying Hillsborough tributes that the week would inevitably bring, it set the bar drastically high for the Football League to top. However, right from the ten-minute delay at Molineux, there was a sense that a special day was about to transpire in the third tier of English football.

Brentford, for all of their shortcomings in the past couple of years via the play-off system, were looking to join Wolverhampton Wanderers in party mode as Wolves secured an immediate return to the Championship last week.

After Doncaster Rovers delivered a crushing blow last season and replacing them on the final day in the final automatic promotion place with a winning goal via a counter attack from a Brentford penalty, which was missed from Marcello Trotta.

The penalty spot was even hit and miss for The Bees on Friday, with Alan Judge opening the scoring on the half hour mark against Simon Grayson’s Preston North End who are also vying for a return after a three-year absence from the second tier of English football. Judge was stumped by the greasy Griffin Park turf in the second half which heaped a degree of pressure on the London club.

Meanwhile, Wolves and Rotherham were playing out an instant classic at Molineux. Wolves, on 93 points going into the game were already assured of a return to the Championship and were in party mode. In a ten-goal game, 21-year old Nouha Dicko and Kieran Agard exchanged hat-tricks for the two clubs.

That left Rotherham level with two minutes left on the clock, needing one more goal to halt Brentford’s promotion party which was ongoing some two hours down the road in a pitch invasion at Griffin Park following Brentford’s 1-0 home victory against Preston.

The celebrations were almost premature after Brentford had secured one of three permutations themselves. Crawley Town also aided The Bees’ promotion bid by toppling the early league leaders Leyton Orient with a second half winner courtesy of Andrew Drury in a 2-1 win for Crawley over the Orient who could’ve fallen to fourth place had Rotherham snatched a late winner.

However, Rotherham suffered a capitulation in injury time at the death, conceding through Sam Ricketts and Kevin McDonald goals in the six added minutes at the home of the presumed incumbent League One champions.

Looking towards the tables in the Football League, whilst the automatic promotion places may be segregated from the play-offs in the top two divisions, the last remaining play-off places and especially the relegation zone could hardly be closer with seven clubs in the hunt for safety in the Championship.

With the likes of Birmingham, Doncaster, Charlton and Blackpool plummeting in terms of their form it gives a free-for-all sense in terms of the three unenviable slots which demote clubs to the third tier of English football. Speaking of free-for-all, though, the bottom eight in League One have seemingly been interchangeable in the past month or so.

Notts County, for instance, have bobbed above the relegation zone for air at points but keep being dragged down by the likes of Crewe, Carlisle and Shrewsbury whilst Stevenage seems the only club in the division condemned to relegation. Meanwhile, in League Two, Northampton continue to fight tooth and nail to remain safe.

Realistically, any team from 16th down to 23rd could be the unfortunate team to join Torquay who are seemingly destined for the drop back down into the ignominy of non-league football.

These tight divisions only serve to magnify the clashes between Wycombe and Northampton which was played out to a desperate 1-1 draw on Good Friday, whether they’re at the bottom of League Two or the top of the Championship.

In recent years, aside from the aforementioned promotion battle in League One last year which pitted Doncaster Rovers and Brentford on the final day, Watford’s semi-final second leg clash with Leicester City at Vicarage Road was almost a mirror image of Brentford’s disappointment.

After missing a penalty in the final minute which would’ve effectively sent Leicester into the play-off final with Crystal Palace, Anthony Knockaert’s Leicester fell foul to a swift breakaway as Troy Deeney turned the tie on its head as Watford won the game 3-2 on aggregate with the 97th minute goal. This was also coupled with Watford’s woes as they were replaced with Hull City on the final day in the same season’s automatic promotion places.

Needing to match Hull’s result against already-champions Cardiff City, Watford hosted Leeds United. Almen Abdi levelled the tie up at half-time at home to the Yorkshire club and were left in second place as Hull were being held at home to Cardiff 0-0.

Fraizer Campbell soon increased Watford’s chances of promotion, scoring for Cardiff against Hull, his former club, as the Humberside club looked down and out in terms of automatic promotion. However, as Watford pushed desperately for a second goal which would all but confirm their automatic Premier League status for the following season, Nick Proschwitz and Paul McShane overturned the game on its head at the KC Stadium which left Watford in desperate need for a goal to gain promotion.

Stand-in teenage goalkeeper Jack Bonham, at the age of 19, was at fault for Leeds’ 90th minute goal courtesy of Ross McCormack. Watford either needed to instantly hit back or hope Cardiff did them a favour, with Nicky Maynard levelling the Welsh side with Hull with a 95th minute penalty.

As Hull players such as Alex Bruce stood watching the television, they saw Watford throw the kitchen sink at Leeds United at Vicarage Road. They couldn’t find a goal and the rest is history as Hull were promoted, alongside Cardiff City and Crystal Palace, who beat a deflated Watford in the play-off final at Wembley.

Conversely, the Premier League as had its moments of drama too. From the great escapes of West Ham in 2007 and Fulham in 2008—the 2004/05 relegation battle was the most dramatic to date as the likes of Norwich, Crystal Palace, West Brom and Southampton battled for the final safety spot in the division.

West Brom started the day at the bottom of the table, two points adrift of Norwich whilst Southampton and Palace were just a point off safety. However, West Brom’s 2-0 win over Portsmouth combined with Norwich’s despairing 6-0 thrashing at Craven Cottage, Southampton’s loss at home to Manchester United and Crystal Palace’s inability to beat Charlton saw West Brom escape relegation, becoming the only club to survive relegation after being bottom on Christmas Day.

Of course, the Premier League saved their most dramatic moment to crown Manchester City the Premier League champions in May 2012 through Sergio Aguero’s last minute winner which helped Manchester City overcome their successful neighbours, beating QPR 3-2 and in the process matching fellow title chasers Manchester United’s 1-0 win away at Sunderland.

World cup greatest players of the 21st century by Jake Doyle

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In the build-up to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer I will whet your appetite by charting top ten’s with the greatest players of the past three tournaments.

Miroslav Klose (Germany; 19 apps, 14 goals)

Despite Ronaldo’s appearance on this list, Miroslav Klose is the highest scoring player out of the ten players here with fourteen in nineteen, most of which come in the 2006. He netted five goals in Germany’s group stages in 2002 which featured a hat-trick in an 8-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia and might have won Germany the World Cup in the Far East but his goalscoring momentum was stopped dead in the knockout stage 1-0 victories over Paraguay, USA and South Korea before Ronaldo beat the Germans in Yokohama.

Klose would return for his nation’s host tournament four years later scooping the Golden Boot with five more goals, scoring four of them in the group stages, two against both Ecuador and Costa Rica but his late leveller against Argentina in Berlin was crucial to Germany’s campaign but they would eventually bow out in the semi-finals in Dortmund to Italy, the eventual winners. Klose and Germany would face the same fate, losing out to the eventual winners in the semi-finals in South Africa when Puyol’s header beat them whilst Miroslav Klose reserved the mainstay of his goals for the knockout stages, in the wins over Argentina and England.

Ronaldo (Brazil; 12 apps, 11 goals)

Ronaldo became the highest charted goalscorer in all of World Cup history back in 2006 with his fifth minute goal against Ghana in a round of 16 win in Dortmund. Miroslav Klose and Gerd Muller are his closest foes in that respective, a title which could possibly be stripped from him should Klose net two goals in Brazil this summer for the German side.

Ronaldo came off the back of the disappointing 3-0 defeat in Paris to the French and all the controversy surrounding the build-up to the match by blitzing all competition in Japan and South Korea, ultimately claiming the golden boot award with eight goals and, more importantly, two in the final to sink a German bereft of their star man, Michael Ballack through suspension.

The forward returned to German soil for the tournament in 2006 which would be his last in a poor effort where they bowed out in the final eight stage to France in a tournament where Ronaldo added three more goals to his international tally which stands at 62 goals in 98 appearances.

Zinedine Zidane (France; 7 apps, 3 goals)

Whilst the French captain doesn’t hold too many appearances in the 21st century, he was a stalwart for the French side in their losing effort in Germany eight years ago. Zidane was amongst those who competed in the 2002 World Cup, qualifying as the tournament holders but disgraced themselves without scoring a single goal and losing to both Senegal and Denmark as they finished bottom of the pile.

Zidane brought France back as the captain in Germany and two sloppy performances against South Korea and Switzerland stretched France’s winless run at a World Cup to five games and they were in danger of sinking ignominiously out of the group stages at successive tournaments but they skipped through Togo with a win, entering the much favoured Spanish at the knockout phase’s round of sixteen.

The Algerian-born playmaker added a third in that contest which wrapped things up against Spain, netting his first of the tournament before he helped his side into the final four with a 1-0 win over Brazil, assisting Thierry Henry from a set-piece. His first-half penalty against Portugal was all-important as it edged France through to a first World Cup final in eight years against the Italians. He soured his career by stitching a headbutt on Marco Materazzi and the subsequent sending off but not before his calm and confident penalty put the French ahead in Berlin.

Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands; 11 apps, 5 goals)

The Dutch playmaker played a slight role in the Holland’s premature exit in the 2006 FIFA World Cup where they floundered against Portugal in the round of 16 record-breaker of a match.

Sneijder returned to the Dutch fold for the subsequent tournament in South Africa and led the side to their third World Cup final which, again, ended in a defeat for the masters of the Total Football brand. However, that brand had been slightly altered to cram aggression into their traits, the Dutch still played attractive football.

The Netherlands eased through Group E of the tournament, securing a 100% record with Wesley Sneijder netting the winning goal against Japan in the second game of the tournament. Whilst scoring a goal of similar importance against Slovakia in the knockout round, his finest hour undisputedly came in Port Elizabeth against the Brazilians scoring twice to overturn an early Brazil almost single-handedly. He got on the scoresheet in a 3-2 semi-final win over Uruguay before their dreams of a first World Cup were dashed by a superb Spanish side.

Fabio Cannavaro (Italy; 13 apps, 0 goals)

Whilst Italy have had hit-and-miss campaigns as of late in the World Cup, there has remained one constant, Fabio Cannavaro. He featured in the far east in 2002 which ended in controversy against South Korea in the second round but his performances at the 2006 World Cup, a tournament in which they claimed their fourth World Cup crown, won him the 2006 Ballon d’Or edging out fellow Italian Gianluigi Buffon.

Alessandro Nesta’s injury in the final group game against Czech Republic allowed Cannavaro to step up to the plate with a new defensive partner in Marco Materazzi. They shut out Australia, Ukraine and Germany on their way to their sixth World Cup final, and the fourth in which they won, winning on penalties by five to three.

David Beckham (England; 10 apps, 2 goals)

Despite being ruled out of the recent World Cup in South Africa, Beckham acted as coach for the squad in their disappointing campaign which saw them bow out at the last sixteen stage but he was the cornerstone of the squad under Sven-Goran Eriksson in the first two tournaments of the century.

He reached insurmountable highs and lows in his two appearances in the 1998 tournament, scoring a free-kick against Colombia before being shown a red card against Argentina in the following match but Eriksson instilled confidence in the Manchester United and Real Madrid winger, alongside caretaker manager Peter Taylor, handing him the captaincy after Alan Shearer’s retirement after the 2000 European Championships.

Beckham gained revenge for the red card against Argentina in his 2002 second group stage match, scoring a winning penalty before helping England to the last sixteen stage where he assisted goals in the 3-0 win over Denmark. They would be eliminated at the quarter-finals, like the next tournament where arguably the most famous man in football scored the winner against Ecuador in the round of sixteen tie before their defeat at the hands of Portugal on penalties.

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany; 14 apps, 2 goals)

Bastian Schweinsteiger came to the world’s attention with the odd appearance at a terrible 2004 European Championships from a German perspective but his breakthrough tournament came in his nation’s host World Cup in 2006 where Germany faltered to a semi-final appearance despite sharing the pre-tournament favourite status with Brazil.

The man whose name literally translates to ‘pig supervisor’ netted two stupendous goals in the third place play-off win over Portugal as a simple foreshadowing to a big star in the rising. The Bayern midfielder played a big role in the middle of the park and was named in the all-star team for the 2010 tournament alongside Xavi and Andres Iniesta of Spain and Wesley Sneijder who also features on this list. Germany made successive semi-finals as well as a final appearance at Euro 2008.

David Villa (Spain; 11 apps, 7 goals)

One of four men on this list to lift the World Cup if David Villa for his heroic performances at the 2006 and 2010 tournaments as Spain finally rose to prominence in the latter tournament as they published the second (and not final) instalment of their international dominance.

Villa began his World Cup career as a Valencia forward alongside Atletico’s Fernando Torres in 2006 but played his best football four years later at South Africa, securing the Golden Boot alongside Diego Forlan, Wesley Sneijder and Thomas Muller as he carried Spain through the earlier stages of the knockout games against Paraguay and Portugal with second half winning goals.

Diego Forlan (Uruguay; 8 apps, 6 goals)

Uruguay only qualified for the 2002 and 2010 tournaments and Diego Forlan rarely figured in a brief campaign in Japan and South Korea where he netted once and setting up arguably one of the better goals of the tournament from Dario Rodriguez.

However, his return to the biggest of international stages in South Africa proved much more successful as he led his two-time World Cup winning countries into the final four for the first time in forty years. He was once the all-time top goalscorer for the country and still holds the appearance record but he added five goals at the tournament in South Africa which included a couple of stunners too, and a vital one against Ghana in the quarter final.

He was one of the only footballers in the last tournament who could control and score from distance with the controversial Jabulani football.

Philipp Lahm (Germany; 13 apps, 1 goal)

Despite only reaching the semi-final stage with Germany in his two tournament appearances in the biggest international tournament in the sport, Lahm is one of only three players to be entered in the all-star team on more than one occasion in the 21st century alongside Miroslav Klose and Michael Ballack—two fellow Germans.

The Bayern Munich full-back scored the opening goal of the 2006 tournament at the age of just 22 as Germany rarely conceded after the opening 4-2 victory over Costa Rica in Munich. He has yet to score another goal for his national side at a World Cup but captained the side at the World Cup after an injury sustained by Michael Ballack in the 2010 FA Cup final, he was the only player to play every single minute from seven games of the 2006 and 2010 tournaments for the Germans.

World cup greatest games of the 21st century by Jake Doyle

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In the build-up to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil this summer I will whet your appetite by charting top ten’s starting with the greatest goals of the past three tournaments. To come are the best players in the World Cup in the 21st century, to add to the greatest goals in the past three tournaments.

France 0-1 Senegal (Group A, May 31, 2002)

Think of the best possible way to announce yourself in the world of football in your debut match at a FIFA World Cup tournament. Got it? Well, Senegal just topped that, beating the holders 1-0 with a scrappy goal from Papa Bouba Diop on the half hour as they got their only World Cup campaign to date out of the blocks with a superb victory. France would later crash out without scoring a single goal as Senegal marched onto the quarter finals, equalling a record for an African side set by Cameroon in 1990 which has only been matched by Ghana in 2010 since.

South Korea 2-1 Italy (Second Round, June 18, 2002)

From one upset to another. Italy were one of the big favourites going into the knockout stages with the likes of Argentina and France falling at the first hurdle and nations like the Netherlands not evening making the tournament held in South Korea and Japan. After progressing out of a group containing Ecuador, Croatia and Mexico, Italy look to get their campaign back on track against co-hosts South Korea in Daejeon. Christian Vieri put Italy ahead but also squandered a glorious opportunity further on to kill the game off.

However, future Premier League star Seol Ki-Hyeon equalised at the death for the Koreans as they made their only quarter final to date as the then-Italy based Perugia midfielder Ahn Jung-Hwan earned South Korea a golden goal but a get-out clause of his contract as Perugia sacked him upon Italy’s elimination from the tournament as South Korea continued their fairy tale by beating Spain in the next round due to controversial disallowed goals but were eliminated by eventual runners-up in Germany.

Argentina 6-0 Serbia & Montenegro (Group C, June 16, 2006)

There have been bigger victories this side of the century in the World Cup (Germany’s 8-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia springs to mind) but no win has been carried out in such a classy manner, with the likes of Esteban Cambiasso’s goal which was one of the greatest team goals in the history of the tournament. The likes of Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi also announced themselves on the world stage but despite Cambiasso’s extravagant goal, they couldn’t equal the likes of Brazil in 1970, who scored a similar goal in the final against Italy as Argentina crashed out in the quarter finals to Germany via the penalty shootout.

Croatia 2-2 Australia (Group F, June 22, 2006)

This was a significant match as it decided who joined Brazil in the knockout stages in the tournament in Germany. Whilst it wasn’t the best match in the world it did have its drama. Australia needed a draw in the hope Brazil would defeat Japan (which they did, 4-1 to progress as group winners) and that’s what they accomplished, holding Croatia to a 2-2 thanks to a Harry Kewell leveller. The match lived on in infamy as English referee, Graham Poll showed Josip Simunic three yellow cards before sending him off in stoppage time in a game that warranted three red cards. Poll never officiated another World Cup or European Championships game whilst Australia crashed out in the round of sixteen to a late Francesco Totti winner as Italy raced towards the final.

Portugal 1-0 Netherlands (Second Round, June 25, 2006)

Another match on this list which was marred by indiscipline but this time it was a mixture of the uncontrollable players and a card-happy referee. The Battle of Nuremburg deserves a place on this list as Russian referee Valentin Ivanov doled out sixteen yellow cards and four reds, two to each side, as Maniche got the winning goal inside the first half as Portugal progressed to face England in the quarter finals, eventually bowing out at the final four, to France.

Germany 0-2 Italy (Semi-Final, July 4, 2006)

Germany were emerging as the favourites for the tournament as well as the hosts for the tournament. This match in Dortmund was preceded by a free-scoring German side who racked up the goals in the group stage before defeating both Sweden and Argentina to play for the chance to face France as the fellow three-time champions fought it out. Italy were hardly setting the world alight but they had done enough in their knockout stage victories against Ukraine and Australia without concession of goals despite losing Alessandro Nesta to injury early on in the tournament.

Just like their previous game, Germany took the game to extra time but they couldn’t whittle their opponents down to the penalty shootout. Fabio Grosso and Alessandro del Piero scored two beautiful goals in the final minutes in extra time as the Italian fans were left dreaming of a fourth World Cup crown.

Italy 1-1 France (Final, July 9, 2006)

Speaking of a fourth World Cup crown, France stood in Italy’s way. After a turgid start to the tournament which saw poor draws against Switzerland and South Korea, they beat Togo in the final group stage match which progressed France to the knockout stages for the first time since they won and hosted the tournament eight years previously in 1998.

After wins over Spain and Brazil, teams seen as higher up than Zidane and Domenech’s France to win the tournament. Thierry Henry and Zinedine Zidane shone through as they snatched winners in the latter stages whilst Zidane started where he left off in the final, a delicate chip which clipped the underside of the crossbar to put the French one up in Berlin. Marco Materazzi, who played a crucial part later on in the match, headed home an equaliser for Italy as the match dripped through to extra time and penalties.

Before the penalties was perhaps the most iconic moment of the 2006 FIFA World Cup as Zidane, playing his last professional football match, headbutted Marco Materazzi and was instantly sent off. The French captain exited the world of football by sloping off past the Jules Rimet trophy whilst a missed David Trezeguet penalty ensured Italy lifted the trophy aloft in Berlin.

Slovakia 3-2 Italy (Group F, June 24, 2010)

Slovakia had never independently competed at a World Cup but after generated just one point from their games against New Zealand and Paraguay they sat bottom of the group ahead of a game with the much-favoured holders, Italy. Robert Vittek, Slovakia’s player and top scorer of the tournament got two well needed goals as Antonio di Natale and Kamil Kopunek traded goals which rendered a stunning Fabio Quagliarella goal a consolation goal. Italy crashed out as the bottom-ranked club in Group F whilst Slovakia were beaten in the round of 16 by eventual finalists Holland 2-1.

Uruguay 1-1 Ghana (Quarter Final, July 2, 2010)

The pride of a continent took centre stage in Johannesburg as Ghana, the only remaining African nation in the tournament, were looking to go where no African nation has gone before—the semi-final of a FIFA World Cup. After scraping through a group containing Australia, Serbia and Germany, Ghana had taken the United States to extra time and won. This match was no different as Sulley Muntari and Diego Forlan exchanged goals which meant a further thirty minutes in the Soccer City stadium.

Controversy hit future Liverpool forward, Luis Suarez who palmed an effort away from goal resulting in his sending off. However, Asamoah Gyan, with the final kick of the game to take not only Ghana but Africa into the semi-final, blazed the penalty wildly over the bar as the 84,000 strong were in shock. Uruguay would beat Ghana on penalties and finish fourth in the tournament.

Argentina 0-4 Germany (Quaurter Final, July 3, 2010)

Two pre-tournament favourites in Argentina and Germany met at the quarter final for the second successive tournament. Lionel Messi was at the height of his powers and alongside Carlos Tevez and Gonzalo Higuain were set to cause German devastation in Cape Town. Joachim Low had re-built a German side since taking over, with the incoming group of players which contained Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Sami Khedira and Jerome Boateng—they weren’t expectant to go far.

However, after a 4-1 demolition over England, bookmakers were scurrying to revise their outright odds to win the tournament in South Africa. Thomas Muller who had previously never scored for his national side chipped in, scoring his fourth goal of the tournament whilst Miroslav Klose and Arne Friedrich added more. The best player in the world was duped out of his place in the World Cup final which many thought he deserved as Germany ultimately finished third in the tournament after being beaten by a Carles Puyol header in a 1-0 semi-final defeat.