Germany will take on Portugal tonight in one of the most promising fixtures of 2014 FIFA World Cup so far. By no means the biggest of rivals, the fixture would nevertheless pit some of the biggest names in the game against each other. Cristiano Ronaldo would, without doubt, be the most watched player on the pitch, while the Germans, who are otherwise known for their ability to play as a team rather than individuals, have no dearth of mercurial talents themselves. In build-up to this eagerly awaited fixture, TheHardTackle rewinds the clock back to the 2006 FIFA World Cup held in Germany, when the two sides met for Third place play-offs and Germany came out triumphant courtesy of a Bastian Schweinsteiger masterclass.
Today the sturdy German is one of the mainstays of Die Mannschaft. It is hard to imagine the team taking to the pitch without him. Back then though he was still a budding youngster from the Bayern Munich academy, touted to eventually take up the mantle from Michael Ballack. As it turned out, the young Schweini chose the best opportunity he got to announce his arrival on the national stage, having been dropped by Jurgen Klinsmann for the heart breaking semi-final defeat against Italy.
Germany 3 -1 Portugal
8th July, 2006
The first half tuned out to be a rather drab affair, failing to live up to the expectations of the 52000 strong Stuttgart crowd and audiences across the world alike, with the former finding consolation mostly in jeering Cristiano Ronaldo at every opportunity. Ballack, out injured for the game, was spotted yawning around the half time mark which summed up the general mood of the game.
The fixture was, however, set to be a highly clichéd game of two halves. 10 minutes into the half, the flurry of goals began. Schweinsteiger, playing on the left, scored two thumping long range goals from 30 years out, combined with an assist in between the two, to put Germany firmly in the driving seat for a third place finish. Cutting in form the left for both his goals, his thundering right footed shots beat Portuguese goalkeeper Ricardo with its sheer pace for the first and with its swerve for the second. Ballack understandably was among those spotted smiling the most. In between the two goals, Armando Petit also made his contributions to the German scoreline when he turned Schweinsteiger’s free-kick into his own net. Portugal were able to get some consolation out of the fixture when Nuno Gomes scored with a diving header in the 88th minute.
The contest was also witness to some of the biggest names in German and Portuguese, and indeed world football, signing off on their international careers. Oliver Kahn, the legendary German goalkeeper, Luis Figo, arguably the greatest Portuguese footballer after Eusebio, and Pauleta, the highest goalscorer for Portuguese National team at that time, all bid their goodbyes.