The Argentineans have been entertainers in every World Cup they have played, sometimes with exceptional ball skills or at times with a wonder strike out of nowhere.
The 2006 tournament known for Zinedine Zidane’s faux pas and Italy’s implausible triumph saw its best moment again from Argentina. In a group league game with Serbia and Montenegro, Esteban Cambiasso’s strike after an extraordinary display of total ball control offered us an early glimpse of the side’s style of play. After Maxi Rodriguez had opened the scoring seven minutes into the game, the Argentines pressed for more and were soon to be rewarded. Skipper Roberto Ayala started the spadework after repulsing a rival attack back in his own half. A round of 24 passes followed and in the end, as if reluctantly, Cambiasso brought down the curtain on the drama, hitting the roof of the net after a Hernan Crespo back-heel, as if taking pity on the victims.
Zidane, meanwhile, was enjoying the most wonderful of swansongs, guiding his team to another Cup final. There, too, he gave France the early lead, but Marco Materazzi had something else in mind for the master.
After Italy had equalised, he provoked Zidane with one barb too many. The Frenchman of Algerian origin lost his head in extra-time and head-butted Materazzi with the whole world watching. Zidane’s Cup dream too came crashing down.
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