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Top 10 World Cup memories: No. 5 - Germany 4-2 Costa Rica

In this special 10-part series, ESPN's Jayaditya Gupta, who has attended every World Cup since 2002, recalls his favourite matches from the tournament. At no. 5, it's the 2006 World Cup opener, where hosts Germany began a new era under Klinsmann and Low, showing signs of things to come with their new, attacking style of play.

The context

The opening match of the 2006 World Cup, in Bayern Munich's state-of-the-art colour-changing stadium.

Philipp Lahm scored the opening goal of the 2006 World Cup.
Philipp Lahm scored the opening goal of the 2006 World Cup.

The match

The Curse of the World Cup Opener puts goals at a premium in the tournament curtain-raiser; four straight 0-0 draws from 1966 to 1978 and precious few goals since. But 2006 was the outlier, with six goals in a hugely entertaining match - and three inside the first 20 minutes. The opener was the best - Philipp Lahm's exquisite right-footer from the edge of the area. Miroslav Klose got a couple, including one after the keeper had parried his header, and Torsten Frings fired in from range to seal the win. Paulo Wanchope got two for Costa Rica, his speed exposing Germany's rather creaky defence.

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The memories

The last time we saw Germany at the World Cup they were old and tired, typified by the hulking, brooding presence of Oliver Kahn. Yes, they had made the final in Yokohama but had clearly punched above their weight and were outplayed by Brazil.

Four years on, they were unrecognizable. The famed "reboot" had brought in not merely new managers - Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Low - and a new, attacking playing style but, with a more youthful team, had inculcated an all-pervading sense of cool. It flowed from Klinsmann and Low, who looked and dressed like Hollywood stars on a break, and was picked up by the fans and, it seemed, the country as a whole. A cloud had lifted, it was okay to be patriotic again. The national anthem was sung with vigour and the terrace chants referenced more familiar tunes - Go West and Yellow Submarine, to name but two.

Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Loew celebrate Germany's third goal against Costa Rica.
Jurgen Klinsmann and Joachim Loew celebrate Germany's third goal against Costa Rica.

It set the scene for the month that followed. I had gone to Germany expecting a dour, mechanical culture with the hosts wary of the invading hordes and the home fans unsure of just how their new-look team would fare. It turned out to be a joyful celebration of football, a festival of all that's right with the sport. The superb transport facilities allowed supporters - especially from Europe - to travel easily in vast numbers and the generally warm weather was a bonus. I sat next to a family of four that had paid 1,200 Euros for tickets and travelled 400 miles to be at the game, and said post-match it was worth every bit.

The match also presaged the eventual World Cup win eight years later. Though the more emphatic breakthrough was four years later, in that demolition of England, three players who took the field against Costa Rica started the 2014 final against Argentina - Bastian Schweinsteiger, Philipp Lahm and the ageless Miroslav Klose. Germany - team, nation, football federation - went into the 2006 World Cup unsure of the bold move to appoint Klinsmann and Low. By the end, they were begging Klinsmann to stay. He didn't, but Germany went from Low to high.