French newspaper ‘L’Equipe’ has named Marcello Lippi Coach of the Year and five Azzurri in its Team of 2006.
The controversy preceding and following the World Cup Final victory in Berlin has made for an uneasy relationship between neighbouring rivals Italy and France.
Nonetheless, with the prestigious Ballon d’Or given to Fabio Cannavaro and this latest recognition, it seems Les Bleus are accepting the Azzurri’s triumph with good grace.
As well as Germany 2006 hero Lippi, there are five Italy players in ‘L’Equipe’s team of the year.
They are FIFA World Player of the Year Cannavaro, Juventus goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, ex-Bianconeri defender Gianluca Zambrotta, Inter’s Fabio Grosso and Milan midfielder Andrea Pirlo.
Considering their excellent record during the tournament – conceding just two goals, one a Cristian Zaccardo own goal for the USA and a Zinedine Zidane penalty in the Final – it’s perhaps no surprise that almost the entire defence consists of Italians.
Only William Gallas creeps in for a central defensive role, one of three French players in the first XI.
Luca Toni is snubbed for a role upfront, though, despite his 24 Serie A goals in the calendar year and four for his country.
L’Equipe Team of 2006: Buffon - Zambrotta - Gallas - Cannavaro - Grosso - Deco - Pirlo - Makelele - Ronaldinho - Henry - Eto'o
Coach of 2006: Marcello Lippi