Jurgen Klinsmann (GER)
Under attack from all sides before the tournament started for his side's poor form and his decision to continue to live in the US, Klinsmann quickly turned things around.
His youthful team rallied National support behind them and they responded until two late goals from Italy ended their hopes just minutes from the final. Everyone in Germany wants him to stay on, but for the moment he is being non-committal.
Gianluigi Buffon (ITA)
Italy's outstanding goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon (below), in hot water before the tournament over his alleged betting on matches, proved his worth as he brilliantly saved a late Zinedine Zidane header to keep the Italians on course for victory.
Only conceded two goals throughout the event — an unfortunate own goal against the United States and then Zidane's penalty to lay claim to the title of best shot-stopper in the world.
Fabio Grosso (ITA)
Italy defender Fabio Grosso insisted throughout that the Serie A match-fixing scandal had a galvanizing effect on the World Cup squad as they sought and found strength in adversity.
It was Grosso who fell over Lucas Neill in the penalty area in injury-time of the second round match with Australia for the penalty that clinched their place in the quarter-finals.
The 29-year-old Palermo left-back then scored a beauty against Germany in the semis and converted the penalty which won the trophy.
Marcello Lippi (ITA)
Italy coach Marcello Lippi steered his side through to glory — no mean feat considering the ongoing Serie A matchfixing tribunal and the apparent suicide attempt by former Juventus and Italy fullback Gianluca Pessotto.
He even had to ride out a squall prior to the finals with some calling for him to step down after allegations, which he firmly denied, that he was forced by former Juventus general manager Luciano Moggi senior to select certain players for the National side.
Keeper Gianluigi Buffon put the Italian revival down to Lippi's “humility and intelligence” and his ability to “stimulate the players to such a degree that everyone gives 120 percent.” Lippi dubbed the win “the greatest satisfaction I have ever experienced in my career.”
Luiz Felipe Scolari (BRA)
Did not manage to double up as a World Cup winning coach with Portugal, but his tactical acumen and sheer physical presence from the touchline acted like an extra man for his side as they battled past the Netherlands and England into the semi-finals for the first time since 1966.
A Zidane penalty put paid to the his hopes, but Scolari left Germany with his head held high and his reputation enhanced as one of the most effective coaches in the world.
The Brazilian maestro (right pic) came into the tournament touted to be the brightest star in the samba galaxy and set to steal the show. He and his side left prematurely after being outplayed by France and Zinedine Zidane in the quarter-finals.
The signs though had been there prior to that. The Barcelona ball-juggler had looked ill-at-ease with the tactics set down by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira. Angry Brazilian fans in the southern town of Chapeco vented their frustrations by destroying a seven-metre tall statue of the World Player of the Year.
Zinedine Zidane (FRA)
The hero of the 1998 World Cup final returned to duty and proceeded at 34 to prove he is the best player of his generation after a slow start. But then Zizou ruined it all with his sending off in the final as the French finally crashed to a shootout defeat against the Italians.
Started slowly and picked up a pair of yellow cards but after a one-match suspension the real "Zizou" burst back on to centre-stage as a virtuoso performance saw off Brazil and he then kept his nerve to score the penalty winner against Portugal in the semi-final.
Frank Lampard (ENG)
Sven Goran-Eriksson banged on about how many shots he had, but none of them threatened to result in a goal. Put England at an immediate disadvantage in the quarter-final shoot-out with a poorly taken first penalty.
David Beckham (ENG)
Came here as skipper of the best England World Cup squad in many years with the stated ambition of emulating Bobby Moore's 1966 champions. Got off to the best of possible starts when his fourth minute free-kick resulted in a Paraguay own goal. It all went downhill after that.
England made it through the group stages but Beckham was largely anonymous. They were found out in the quarter-finals against Portugal where Beckham was taken off with an ankle injury and he watched tearfully from the toucline as a penalty shoot-out once again sent England home.
Luis Aragones (ESP)
The combative 67-year-old Spanish coach had a wonderfully talented young Spanish side at his disposal as he pledged to end his country's history of under-achievement at the World Cup by at least reaching the semi-finals.
They got off to a great start by overwhelming Ukraine 4-0 and took maximum points from their group. Then took the lead against France in the last 16 match but were helpless as Zinedine Zidane's men suddenly rediscovered their 1998 style and spirit to turn the match around.
Aragones was left holding his head in his hands.
Ruud van Nistelrooy (NED)
Came to the World Cup with his future at Manchester United looking pretty much over after a row with the unforgiving Sir Alex Ferguson but was bolstered by national handler Marco van Basten, who said he would start and he had supreme faith in him.
However three lifeless displays - even though he scored in the 2-1 win over Ivory Coast - forced van Basten's hand and the 30-year-old was dropped for the second round match with Portugal. Despite trailing 1-0 he was not called upon, van Basten preferring to send on Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink.
Biggest gripe: Fifa's refusal to tackle diving or feigning injury - something instant video evidence would cut at a stroke. They're also to blame for the new super-light ball that led, predictably, to poor crossing and shots ballooning into the stands.
Biggest joy: Argentina's Esteban Cambiasso's slotting home after that 24-pass PlayStation move against Serbia and Montenegro.
Bravest team: That Ghana captain Stephen Appiah won the battle of ideas with manager Ratomir Djukovic, convincing him to renounce the defensive dogma that had shackled his side during the African Cup of Nations.
Instead the Black Stars went all-out attack. They were the bravest, most swashbuckling team of the tournament. Pity they couldn't shoot.