BERLIN — It was the best of World Cups, it was the worst of World Cups. Opinion will be forever divided on whether Germany 2006 was good, bad or ugly but it generated numerous talking points.
Here, Mully’s Missives takes a light-hearted look at what was enjoyable about the monthlong football fest.
The “wurst” comes tomorrow.
BEST PLAYER: Fabio Cannavaro (Italy) — The personification of “catenaccio,” Italy’s style of defensive football. Short in stature at 5-foot-9, big in heart, peerless as a defender. Made his 100th appearance for his country in the final.
BEST MATCH: Germany 0 vs. Italy 2 — The atmosphere, the last-minute drama, the tactical surprises sprung by coach Marcello Lippi in bringing on four forwards, the end-to-end action — it was edge-of-the-seat stuff in this semifinal.
And at the end of the game, it was as though both teams were victors as the German fans congratulated Juergen Klinsmann’s men for their incredible journey.
BEST CELEBRATION: Fabio Grosso — The Palermo left-back’s emotional outpouring after putting Italy 1-0 up in the semifinal against Germany brought back memories of Italy’s Marco Tardelli’s celebrations after scoring in the 3-1 victory over West Germany in the 1982 World Cup final.
BEST GOAL: Esteban Cambiasso — Against Serbia and Montenegro in Argentina’s 6-0 win. The Argentines strung 21 passes together before the ball went to Juan Roman Riquelme to Javier Saviola to Cambiasso and then to Hernan Crespo, who back-heeled a return pass to Cambiasso and the Inter Milan midfielder made no mistake.
Honorable mentions go to Joe Cole for his wonder strike against Sweden, Maxi Rodriguez for his cracker against Mexico and Alessandro del Piero’s brilliant finish against Germany
BEST NATIONAL ANTHEM: Paraguay Paraguayos, Republica o muerte!” (Paraguayans, The Republic or Death!) is a classic South American epic that had the England fans on their feet and dancing away before the two countries played. An absolute belter with a classic “pause where you think its over before they throw everything and the kitchen sink at you” finale.
BEST STADIUM: Westfalenstadion — Borussia Dortmund’s home is the template for all football grounds. Huge, steep banks on all four sides looming over the pitch with no running track, making for an overwhelming atmosphere when sold out.
The atmosphere during Germany’s semifinal against Italy made those famous nights of European football at Liverpool’s Anfield seem like slightly rowdy tea parties. And talking of Liverpool, the Germans singing the club’s anthem “You’ll Never Walk Alone” as their dejected players left the pitch after the semifinal loss was extremely moving.
BEST FAN: Diego Maradona — The Argentine legend entertained the crowd with his fired-up antics during his team’s games, although with his well-publicized heart problems you can only imagine what his doctor was thinking. Bets were taken before the Argentina-Germany quarterfinal on who would feature more on the television: Maradona or Franz Beckenbauer.
In the end, Maradona refused to attend the match. One of his entourage had been causing trouble at previous matches and was refused entry by FIFA. In a huff, the portly genius decided against attending. It’s never simple with Maradona.
BEST CHANT: Germany — “Berlin, Berlin, gehen wir nach Berlin” (Berlin, Berlin, we’re going to Berlin). Simple yet effective. It was the chant of the German fans during their run to the semifinals and to hear tens of thousands of fans singing the song in the streets of Munich after Klinsmann’s men steamrollered Sweden was amazing.
BEST CITIES: Heidelburg & Bonn — The best places to enjoy the action were actually in non-World Cup cities. Heidelburg and Bonn — Japan’s base — are big student towns, which made for a great atmosphere in both throughout the tournament.
BEST BAR: Blow Up (Bonn) — Dark and dingy student dive that served as the unofficial base for a few journalists following Japan. Ask for Nena.
BEST HOTEL: Hotel Beethoven (Bonn) — A bit frayed at the edges but great location on the Rhine, friendly staff and, most importantly, close to Blow Up.
BEST INTRODUCTION IN A CITY’S TOURIST GUIDE: Dortmund — “Dortmund is famous for two things: Football and beer.” — Cue thousands of men asking their other halves whether they could relocate to a grim mining town in the north of Germany.
BEST DRINK: Bavarian Weiss Beer –The weiss beer in Munich was by far the best in Germany and Erdinger-Weiss was a particular favorite — a buxom Bavarian beauty with whom you could enjoy spending time with and not feel too guilty about it afterward.