Penalty Kicks Decide 2006 World Cup After a grueling 90 minutes of regulation play and an added 30 minutes of overtime, Italy bests France in a penalty kick shootout to decide the World Cup final in Berlin. Mike Woitalla of Soccer America magazine talks with Debbie Elliot about some lessons learned from the tournament.
NPR logo

Penalty Kicks Decide 2006 World Cup

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5544598/5544599" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
Penalty Kicks Decide 2006 World Cup

Penalty Kicks Decide 2006 World Cup

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/5544598/5544599" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

DEBBIE ELLIOTT, Host:

Soccer America magazine's Mike Woitalla joins me now from Berlin. Hello there Mike.

MIKE WOITALLA: Hello. How are you doing?

ELLIOTT: So this was a pretty exciting game. It must have been tense there in the stadium.

WOITALLA: It was very tense in the stadium, especially after the French captain Zinedine Zidane was red-carded, ejected from the game. The fans didn't see it, that he had head butted Marc Materazzi, so they just booed and jeered the Italians for the rest of the game, not knowing that Zidane, you know, was justifiably ejected. So it really got loud, but it didn't bother the Italians at all.

ELLIOTT: Do think the teams were well matched?

WOITALLA: I think so. I think that was the surprise that in the second half the French had most of the game, that they pressured the Italians, kept the Italians in their own half, made the Italians a little nervous, they were losing the ball. I had expected the Italians to take command of this game. They had been slightly more attacking - more attack minded and more successful earlier in the tournament. Overall, obviously they were - they were closely matched and the Italians were lucky in the penalty kick or - or they kept their nerve, whichever way you look at it.

ELLIOTT: Now, both teams scored pretty early on leading some of us to think, well, maybe this will be an exciting game and we'll see more scores than we have so far in this tournament. But that wasn't to be the case.

WOITALLA: No, the story of this World Cup has been that the excitement, the atmosphere, the friendliness, they - all the fans from different countries getting together and partying has been wonderful. The soccer, unfortunately, has disappointed. Very many of the teams have played with only one forward. The goal scoring was the lowest since 1990. So I think when this is settled down people are going to take a look at the sport of soccer and maybe think about tweaking a rule or two because we - we averaged about 2.3 goals a game, which is not much at all.

ELLIOTT: Yet set a record for penalties.

WOITALLA: Right. I mean I think it wasn't necessarily a very unfair World Cup. I think the sportsmanship overall was good. The referees tried to crack down on fouls. FIFA, which is the governing body of soccer, believed that if they cracked down on the cheating maybe the scoring will go up, because the creative players will have some space and be able to do something. Unfortunately that didn't help either.

ELLIOTT: How do you think this match will stack up against other World Cup matches you've seen? Do you think it was a fitting finale? Or was it a bit of a letdown going to the penalty kicks and the shootout?

WOITALLA: I think it was a letdown. Of course, they're dramatic, these penalty kicks, but you know, it's just kind of - it's a crapshoot once you get the penalties. It's not - it's not a reflection of how good a team is. Unfortunately we haven't come up with a better way to settle a tie. When two teams play for 120 minutes and one can't more goal than the other, well, you've got to come up with something. You can't play forever.

ELLIOTT: Soccer America's magazine Mike Woitalla speaking to us from Berlin. Thank you so much.

WOITALLA: You're welcome.

Copyright © 2006 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.