World Cup: Heroes & Villains

Germany 2006 was memorable for its star turns and its ill-starred. But there were plenty of participants who managed to be both. Steve Tongue assesses his top 10 dual personalities
Click to follow
The Independent Football

Marco Materazzi (Italy)

Those who remember his hapless season (1998-89) at Everton, with its three red cards, wondered how Marco Materazzi ever finished up as an Internazionale player, let alone an international one. But there he was in the Italy squad for a third successive major tournament, and Alessandro Nesta's injury in the final group game offered a chance to shine alongside Fabio Cannavaro. The lanky defender seemed accident-prone himself, with a dubious red card against Australia and harsh penalty conceded in the final, but soon made amends by heading an excellent equaliser. Then he took provocation too far for most tastes with his nipple-tweaking and abuse of the retiring Zinedine Zidane.

Zinedine Zidane (France)

Hero to zero to hero to zero to hero to... what? The graph of Zidane's last World Cup swung from one extreme to the other and back again. There was a dismal start and suspension for two yellow cards, then a series of dazzling performances in the knockout stages on his return, above all against Brazil in the quarter-final. Lucky to get away with a chipped penalty kick in the final, he might have won the Cup with a header brilliantly saved, before blowing a fuse and "heading" Materazzi; then he was controversially named best player in the tournament.

Wayne Rooney (England)

There was only sympathy when Rooney was led from the pitch in a quarter-final at Euro 2004, his foot cracked and England's hopes in pieces. Emotions were different this time. Whether or not he intended to stamp on Portugal's Ricardo Carvalho and whether the challenge was prompted by frustration at being used as a lone striker, it was undoubtedly reckless, and unworthy of a supposedly maturing 20 year-old. All that after being celebrated as the great white-shirted hope and looking stronger by the match.

David Beckham (England)

Awarding marks out of 10 for individual performances was a tortuous exercise in the case of Beckham. How to assess a game in which he scored or created the crucial goal and did nothing else? Pathetically grateful for any England goal, most were prepared to support him on that basis against Paraguay, Trinidad & Tobago and Ecuador (though not Sweden), while waiting for the big performance later on. Instead it all ended in tears, his own after being injured in the quarter-final preceding those of his team-mates, who now need a new captain.

Owen Hargreaves (England)

Villain turned hero (1). Most British fans take a perverse delight in having a "boo-boy" in their team whose function is to act as the butt of ridicule and frustration. Peter Crouch's hat-trick and robot dance in the final pre-tournament friendly enabled him to hand this role to a reluctant Hargreaves, who was jeered when allowed a typical eight-minute cameo in the opening game, then re-emerged as one of the best players against Sweden and Ecuador and the star man against Portugal. He even showed he is not a stereotypical England player by scoring in the penalty shoot-out.

Luiz Felipe Scolari (Portugal)

The man who was once managerial flavour of the month around Soho Square steered Portugal comfortably through their group and towards an inevitable third meeting with England and Sven Goran Eriksson. The record-breaking second-round game with Holland, however, in which seven of his players were booked and two of them sent off, revived concerns about his inna-ya-face approach, compounded by theatricals on and off the pitch in the quarter-final. Chants of "You'll never manage England" and full-page denunciations in the press duly followed.

Ronaldo (Portugal)

Hero and pantomime villain, Cristiano was actually having a comparatively quiet World Cup until he told Rooney before the quarter-final that Portugal would try to get him sent off. Far from construing this as a useful warning from a club-mate and acting accordingly, Rooney swallowed the bait and was reeled in. Ronaldo's protests to the referee were followed by a wink to the dug-out and, later, the winning penalty, clinically put away. English fans led booing throughout the semi-final defeat by France, when he was the usual mixture of dazzling runs and disgraceful dives.

Ronaldo (Brazil)

The Ronaldo without a first name seemed to be hitting his stride at last as the knockout stage began. Equalling Gerd Müller's World Cup record of 14 goals with a pair in the 4-1 victory against Japan, he surpassed it as Ghana were beaten 3-0. Come the quarter-final against France, however, all the old doubts about fitness and fatness returned in a wretched performance equalled by the other superstars Ronaldinho, Kaka, Roberto Carlos and Cafu. Aged 30 in September, he can hardly expect a fifth World Cup in 2010.

Jose Pekerman (Argentina)

With players such as Lionel Messi, Carlos Tevez and Pablo Aimar, Argentina's coach clearly had more talent in reserve than most countries had in their first team. The 6-0 devastation of Serbia & Montengro, when all three of Pekerman's substitutes scored (Esteban Cambiasso rounding off the team goal of the tournament), suggested he knew how to use them to best effect, and the squad rightly replaced Brazil as favourites. But come the first knockout game against Germany Pekerman lost his nerve, pulling off Juan Roman Riquelme and Hernan Crespo and leaving Messi inactive throughout in order to sit back on a 1-0 lead. Not only did Miroslav Klose equalise but Argentina lost the shoot-out and showed all their old indiscipline in the shocking scenes afterwards.

Fabio Grosso (Italy)

Villain turned hero (2). Italy's attacking left-back deserved all credit for charging forward in the final minute of normal time against Australia, but none for tumbling down over the prostrate Lucas Neill to earn (sic) a penalty converted by Francesco Totti, and a ticket to the last eight. In an enthralling semi-final against Germany, he was again well forward in the last minute, effectively securing victory with a beautifully struck shot. Then in the final it came down to Grosso to score the penalty with which Italy would become world champions. He did not let himself or his country down.