Wednesday, 20 January 2010

2006 - Headbutts, Shootouts and Controversy. And That's Just The World Cup !

French temperament, feathered foes and the demise of the C.D. Just three hot topics from a busy year in the world of sport, current affairs and music. Join me once again for a nostalgic trawl down memory lane. 2006 … we salute you !

Every decade or so, there is the outbreak of some animal-human related disease. Whether it be Edwina Currie and her "eggstraordinary" salmonella epidemic of the eighties or the mad cow disease hysteria of the nineties, the noughties also had a virus which killed 79 people worldwide in 2006. The strain was avian flu; the origins were in the Far East, with the virus spreading from beaked creatures to human beings. The first death came in Indonesia in June.

Saddam Hussein was finally brought to task following years of atrocities in the Gulf conflicts. The former Iraqi leader was found in hiding, sporting a bushy beard, and following trial, was executed in Baghdad, along with several of his deadly cohorts.

The poisoning of former K.G.B. officer Alexander Litvinenko hit the headlines in 2006. After visiting a Sushi Bar in London with two former officers, he died three days later, claiming on his deathbed that Andrei Lugovoi was to blame for the deed. The Kremlin refused to let Lugovoi stand trial in Britain, and to this day remains immune from prosecution in his native Russia !

Google further strengthened its position in the online world, purchasing video hosting site “YouTube” in October. After share prices rocketed to over $500 each, Google reached for the stars and teamed up with N.A.S.A., bringing us “Google Earth” which is still going strong to this day.

Queensland’s most famous ambassador, and much loved tv personality “Crocodile HunterSteve Irwin was killed by a Stingray whilst filming in September.


The “X-Factor” was very much at its peak popularity in 2006, and this was reflected at both the start and end of the year. The year started as it had ended in 2005, with series two winner Shane Ward at the top, where he stayed for the first three weeks in January. Fellow contestant “Chico”, who had been something of a novelty act, also proved his popularity with the public, scoring a number one with “It’s Chico Time” in March, for not one, but two weeks. At the close of the year, the biggest star of any series of “X-Factor” the series three winner, Leona Lewis hit the top with “A Moment Like This” to once again make the Christmas and New Year’s chart a total reality pop dominated event.

The “Arctic Monkeys” proved they were no one hit wonders, following up their number one hit of 2005 “I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor” with a second number one in January 2006 entitled “When The Sun Goes Down”. Both singles were taken from the hugely popular “Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not” album, which topped the L.P. chart for five weeks early in the year. Indie/Guitar bands tended to fare well in the album charts in 2006, with the likes of “Hard Fi”, “Razorlight”, “The Strokes”, “Red Hot Chilli Peppers”, “Keane”, “Muse”, “Kasabian” and “The Killers” all enjoying time at the top.

2006 was a year for big returns in the music scene. Girl band “All Saints” reformed five years after their split in 2001, while following a 29 year absence, bubble permed seventies singer Leo Sayer returned to the top with a remix of his former chart topper “Thunder In My Heart”, in a collaboration with dance act “Meck”. While after several silent years, Nelly Furtado with “Maneater” and “Shakira” with “Hips Don’t Lie” both made a serious impression on the singles chart. However, the biggest return, following their split as a four piece in 1996, was from “Take That” (minus Robbie Williams), with “Patience” which was at the top for four weeks prior to Leona Lewis taking the mantle of Christmas number one.

A new chart ruling was implemented in 2006, which allowed downloaded tracks to be considered for chart entry a week before they were released on physical formats. This had an almost instantaneous impact - “Ne*Yo” climbed from number 18 straight to number one the following week with the forgettable “So Sick” after initially charting on downloads alone. The following week however, the anthem of the year, “Crazy” by Gnarls Barkley became the first act to top the singles chart on downloads alone. This went on to top the UK Top 100 for nine weeks, the longest a single had stayed on the top since 1994, when “Wet Wet Wet’s” “Love Is All Around” lingered around the number one slot for a heady fifteen weeks in one of the longest summers in my living memory !

The summer months saw a series of rather flat chart toppers, in a year when Glastonbury Festival did not take place due to taking a “fallow year” following the mudbaths of the year before. Some of the bilge which was inflicted on us in June included “I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker With Flowers In My Hair” from Sandi Thom, which lyrically was possibly the most absurd since “Des’ree’s” loathsome 1998 “Life”. There was a memorable debut for chirpy Cockney Lily Allen, with “Smile” topping the singles charts for a fortnight in July, while she had a further hit with “LDN” shortly after.

The “Scissor Sisters” had one of the biggest sellers of the year in Autumn, with the radio-friendly “I Don’t Feel Like Dancing” which made the top spot its own in September, while “Emo” anthem “Welcome To The Black Parade” from “My Chemical Romance” had a fortnight at the sharp end too. There were also memorable debut singles and albums from Scottish three piece “The Fratellis” and Sheffield band “The Long Blondes”, while Dundee youths “The View” made their mark on the Indy circuit.

World Cup

The World Cup of 2006 was from a personal point of view, more memorable for me than that of 2002, largely due to the television scheduling being more Europe-friendly, being held in Germany. In a tournament held in Europe, it was appropriate that the European teams took a position of dominance, and locked out the semi finals, with Italy the eventual victors. Despite early success in the group stages by the likes of Ghana, Australia and Ecuador, there was to be a return to dominance for traditional footballing powers, four years after a World Cup where Asian, African and North American teams had gone deep into the knock out stages. A competition of fewer surprises saw all eight seeded teams progress to the knockout stages, and none of the quarter finalists were from outwith Europe or South America.

The hosts took a clean sweep of three wins in as many games in Group A, setting the tone by defeating Costa Rica 4-2 in the curtain raising tie, the highest scoring opening match in the tournament’s history. Ecuador took the runners up spot in this pool, edging out third placed team Poland, in a 2-0 win. England as ever, made heavy work of getting the results they needed, but still won Group B with seven points, dropping two in the 2-2 draw with Sweden, the Swedes making their unbeaten record 38 years without defeat to their opponents. The auld enemies from north of the border chose to back minnows Trinidad and Tobago, largely because St. Johnstone (and former Dundee United) patriotically named striker Jason Scotland was playing for them, who gained some respect with a credible goalless draw with Sweden, and then also held England for 83 minutes, until late goals from Peter Crouch and Steven Gerard sealed a 2-0 win.

The two favourites in Group C, Argentina and Holland qualified comfortably, both with seven points after drawing 0-0 in their match. Argentina were declared group winners with a superior goal difference, due to a crushing 6-0 victory over Serbia and Montenegro, who finished without a point, but did put up a good showing in their final match, not only in their 2006 World Cup campaign, but as an international outfit, following the break up of the country, in a 3-2 defeat to the Ivory Coast, who finished a distant third in the pool. A perfect record in Group D saw Portugal progress to the knockout stages in arguably the least tricky section, finishing five points clear of second placed Mexico. World Cup virgins, Angola, had a respectable first tournament, claiming draws with Mexico, and basement side Iran.

The main shocks of the group phase came in pools E and F. Although Italy cakewalked Group E (dropping points only in a one all draw with the U.S.A., the only goal which they conceded in this phase), the runners up were Ghana, who impressed with wins over the Czech Republic and U.S.A. Whilst over in Group F, reigning World Champions Brazil met expectations with three wins from three, but joining them in the next round, following a 32 year absence at the World Cup finals, were Australia. “The Socceroos” impressed with a 3-1 victory over Japan. Their 2-2 draw in the match with Croatia was enough to send them through. However, English referee, Graham Poll, stole their thunder and the back page headlines with a series of controversial decisions. Two players were dismissed for second yellow cards, whilst a third booking for Josip Simunic saw him receive his marching orders … better late than never. Blundering beak Poll subsequently retired from refereeing international fixtures following this debacle. (I’m sure Dom might have some personal memories of Mr Poll he might like to share from his experiences of watching club football !) Japan and Croatia both had tournaments to forget, exiting without a single win between them.

There was no repeat of the nightmare of Japan 2002 for France in Group G, although they were forced into the runners up spot by Switzerland, following draws with the Swiss, and also South Korea, who themselves were unable to replicate their form of the previous tournament, joining pointless Togo on the sidelines at the close of the round robin section. In Group H, Spain looked good, with a perfect win record, scoring eight goals and conceding only one while cruising into the next round. Joining them was Ukraine, leaving Saudi Arabia and Tunisia floundering at the bottom of the group on a point apiece.

So, onto the knockout phase. Two early goals saw Germany cruise into the quarters at the expense of Sweden. A Maxi Rodriguez extra time goal was needed for Argentina to see off a stubborn Mexican outfit after the scores finished level at one-all after ninety minutes, with both goals having come in the opening ten minutes. It looked like Australia were going to force Italy into extra time too, continuing their impressive run, until a controversial penalty for the European outfit saw “The Socceroos” cruelly dumped out, although some might argue that the Italians were unlucky to have been forced to play much of the game with ten men following the early dismissal of centre back Marco Materazzi, in a match continuing the theme of suspect refereeing which had marred a number of matches in the competition. A rather turgid goalless draw in the Switzerland-Ukraine fixture ended up with a penalty shootout, which went in favour of the Ukrainians, as the Swiss failed to convert a single penalty, at the same time earning a dubious place in history as the first team to achieve this feat – however, they also became the first team to be eliminated from a World Cup without conceding any goals. England looked poor in their scraped 1-0 win over Ecuador, once again relying on a David Beckham free kick to progress. A record fifteenth World Cup goal in the 3-0 win over Ghana for Ronaldo saw the Brazilians join the quarter final line up without drama. France came from a goal down to beat the fancied Spain outfit 3-1, with late goals from Patrick Vieira and Zinedine Zidane sealing the win. A memorable match, for perhaps the wrong reasons was the 1-0 victory for Portugal over Holland, with Maniche the scorer. An acrimonious match, that saw a record sixteen bookings and four red cards for bookable offences once again saw referees making the headlines and a lack of discipline souring the face of international football.

I’m getting used to relating the stories of England exiting major tournaments in the knockout stages. (At least there won’t be any of that when it comes to discussing the events of Euro 2008 !) Once again, Luis Felipe Scolari’s Portugal beat the English on penalties in a match dominated by ugly scenes. Wayne Rooney was dismissed, and there was confrontation between him and club team mate Christiano Ronaldo, amongst others on the pitch. The game ended goalless, with Portugal triumphing 3-1 in the shootout, taking them to their first semi final since the days of Eusebio, 40 years previous. It was also the third consecutive international tournament at which the Portuguese had triumphed over the English at the quarter final stage.

In the other quarters, hosts Germany also won on penalties, 4-2 over Argentina in a cagey encounter which had finished at 1-1, with Miroslav Klose’s late equaliser tying the match. Italy swept first time quarter finalists Ukraine aside in a 3-0 hammering with two goals from Luca Toni coming as the Italians stepped up a gear. In a repeat line up of the 1998 final, France once again triumphed over a Brazil side which lacked edge, indeed they only managed one shot on target, while the brilliance of Zinedine Zidane shone through, his dribbling resulting in winning a free kick, duly converted by Thierry Henry, the only goal in a 1-0 win.

After a slow start, and waiting 118 minutes for the opening goal, which came from Fabio Grosso, Italy defeated the hosts Germany 2-0. The second goal coming from veteran Alessandro Del Piero as the Germans pushed forward in a vain endeavour to get to penalty kicks. Portugal succumbed 1-0 to France in the second semi final, and were met by a hostile welcome from the French and English fans, following the unsporting behaviour by Christiano Ronaldo. A penalty in the 33rd minute from Zinedine Zidane was enough to take the French into their second final in the last three World Cup competitions.

Hosts Germany made up for their disappointment a little, with a resounding 3-1 win over Portugal in the third place play off. The final will be remembered for many years to come however. As the theme of both sides scoring early then being deadlocked after ninety minutes continued, the brilliance, and temperament of one man will be remembered for years to come. A slightly contentious penalty was awarded to France after just seven minutes which was converted by Zinedine Zidane. Just twelve minutes later, the Italians equalised, with Marco Materazzi thrashing home from a corner. In a match of spurned chances, the scores were level at 1-1 at the end of ninety minutes. After yet another match at what had been a fantastic swansong World Cup, Zinedine Zidane blotted his copybook after provocation from Materazzi, during the dying minutes of extra time, which saw the fiery Frenchman headbutt the Italian in the chest, which of course led to a straight red card. Even with an extra man, Italy could find no answer to the French, and the game ended in yet another penalty shootout. This ended in a 5-3 penalty victory to Italy, after David Trezeguet failed to convert his spot kick, ironically, he had been the man to put Italy out of the Euro 2000 championships with a golden goal. So Italy were World Cup winners, but almost as much was reported and written regarding the Zidane incident than about the victors themselves, in what, to be fair had been an engrossing and sometimes controversial month of football.

General Sport

Chelsea had waited decades before landing their first Premiership title, and only their second top flight title in the 2004/05 season, but immediately retained it in 2005/06. The 3-0 win over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in April confirmed their win, the eventual margin at the seasons close being an eight point gap over second placed United, with Liverpool in third a further point adrift, and Arsenal a country mile behind on 67 points, to Chelsea’s 91.

It had not all been plain sailing for Chelsea. Despite cruising off into the distance by Christmas, having taken fifteen wins from sixteen games, Mourinho’s men had left the other members of the “Big Four” stuttering somewhat, and it seemed to be all over bar the shouting. However, their eighteen point lead was cut to just seven in little over a fortnight in March, following some mediocre results, at a time when Manchester United went on a ten match winning streak, scoring thirty goals in the process. This run came to a halt with a shock defeat to a lacklustre Sunderland at Old Trafford, which eventually shifted the momentum back in the West London side’s favour.

Arsenal played their last home games at “Highbury” in this season, prior to their move to the “Emirates Stadium”, the last game there being the 4-2 win over Wigan, with a Thierry Henry hat trick providing a memorable farewell for the “Gunners” faithful. In other news, Henry scored 27 goals in the league – more than the entire Sunderland team combined ! Arsenal, despite being off the pace in the title race also recorded the biggest win of this year, with a 7-0 mauling of Middlesbrough in January. Arsenal were the best of the British sides in Europe in 2006, in fact, they reached the final of the Champions League, finally succumbing to Barcelona at the final furlong in a 2-1 defeat. The game was slightly tainted by the early dismissal of keeper Jens Lehmann, and despite this Arsenal took a 1-0 half time lead after a header from Sol Campbell. The dream was ended late on with goals from Samuel Eto’o and Juliano Belletti. The domestic cups were taken by Manchester United (Carling Cup, 4-0 win over Wigan) and Liverpool (F.A. Cup) in a thrilling 3-3 encounter with West Ham, eventually taking the tie down on penalties.

Joining the aforementioned Sunderland in the relegation spots were West Brom and Birmingham, a black year for teams from the “Black Country” ! While Sunderland, who had taken the “Championship” the year previous went down, West Ham and Wigan both survived without too many difficulties, in ninth and tenth respectively, having both been promoted at the start of the year. Coming up to join the big boys in the Premiership, were Championship victors, Reading, who scored 99 goals over the season and scored a record 106 points as runaway leaders. Joining them as runners up were Sheffield United, and appropriately (for once) third placed team Watford, who overcame Leeds United in the play off final.

In Scotland, for the first time in eleven years, the Old Firm were split at the top of the league. Gordon Strachan had taken over as the gaffer at Celtic at the eve of the 2005/06 season, and made an instant impact in taking the title by a gulf of seventeen points over second placed Hearts. Rangers were a further point back in third, despite the best efforts of S.P.L. top scorer Kris Boyd. Livingston had a torrid season, and went down to the First Division with a mere eighteen points and four wins to their name. Replacing them the following season would be Paisley based outfit St. Mirren. The big story in Scottish football in this year though was the meteoric rise of Gretna F.C., who not only had now achieved back to back promotion (having won the Third Division in 2004/05, and then took the Second Division in 2005/06), but also took Hearts all the way to a penalty shootout in the Scottish Cup Final, despite losing out in the lottery of spot kicks, they could console themselves with becoming the first team from the third tier of Scottish football to reach the final. In winning the cup, Hearts were the first non-Old Firm team to lift the cup since their previous win in 1998. There was a more familiar feel to the C.I.S. Cup, where Celtic comfortably saw off Dunfermline 3-0.

There was scandal and controversy in Serie A, after a string of top flight matches were found to be the victims of a match fixing ring. Inter Milan were awarded the league title after initial winners Juventus were thrown out for their involvement in the unsavoury goings on. Juventus were subsequently punished by instant relegation to Serie B (after appeal), other clubs including AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio were initially relegated also, but this was quashed following appeal.

The seventh annual Rugby Union Six Nations Championship saw France take the title in its current guise for the third time, in a close fought series, which was decided on points difference, beating Ireland into second place. Ireland could, however, console themselves with a “Triple Crown” having beaten all of the other home nations. Italy once more took the unwanted booby prize “The Wooden Spoon”, but continued their quiet, yet noticeable improvement, gaining their sole point (and first ever away point) in a draw with Wales. Also, England continued their poor form, finishing fourth, and losing in the Calcutta Cup match, which was Scotland’s first win over their arch rivals since 2000. Scotland were undoubtedly the most improved team of the year, winding up third in the table, with resounding wins over France and England, but let themselves down losing to fifth placed Wales. Domestically, Manchester based club “Sale Sharks” won the Guinness Premiership, “London Wasps” took the Powergen Cup, and Ireland’s Munster romped to the European (Heineken) Cup.

After the euphoria surrounding the 2005 Ashes success, high hopes were held in anticipation of the spring tour to India. Although not a classic series, England won the third test by 212 runs, to level the three match contest. Although by far nothing to shout about, it was in fact their best result on Indian turf for 21 years. In the One Day International world, Ireland became the twenty fourth team to play, and opened their account with a 38 run defeat to England in Belfast. However, there was little for England to cheer in this format, going down to a 5-0 washout by a rampant Sri Lanka. On the domestic front, Sussex won the County Championship, Lancashire the “Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy” and “Leicestershire Foxes” once again got their hands on the “Twenty20” trophy.

Roger Federer was a force to be reckoned with, as he had been in 2005, in the tennis world. As well as taking another Wimbledon title over Spanish rival Rafael Nadal, he also took the Australian Open and U.S. Open. However, at the French Open, Nadal did take victory over Federer. In a sparse season in terms of major finals for the Williams’ sisters, Amelie Mauresmo of France and Belgium’s Justine Henin-Hardenne appeared in the most major finals, with a sole victory in the U.S. final from Maria Sharapova stopping the aforementioned pairings dominance.

British boxing once again proved it could produce world champion fighters, as Welshman Joe Calzaghe defeated American Jeff Lacy by a landslide unanimous decision to land the W.B.O.-I.B.F. Super Middleweight title in March. Tiger Woods once again won two majors – The Open at Royal Liverpool, and the P.G.A. Championship, with Phil Mickelson taking the U.S. Masters and Geoff Ogilvy the U.S. Open. “War of Attrition” took the Cheltenham Gold Cup, while the Grand National was won by “Numbersixvalverde”. Once again, Fernando Alonso and Renault did the double in the Formula One World Drivers and Constructors championships, while finally Valentino Rossi’s stranglehold and domination on the MotoGP title was stalled, at least for a while, as the U.S.A.’s Nicky Hayden won the title for Honda.

So, another year and another post comes to an end. 2006 was, as you can probably tell, a year dominated by politics, pop and penalty shootouts ! 2007, as far as I can recall was an altogether quieter affair, but no doubt when I start digging up the trivia it’ll prove to be a totally different matter. We’ll find out next time !
Thanks for reading,
Mountain Man

1 comment:

moDtheGod said...

KUTGW on Long Blondes promoting.

Kate <3