» World Cup

Back Amongst the Living

I’ve finally crawled from the deathbed and am easing myself back away from the light. I thought my pain wracked state was brought on by mighty Ipswich Town’s dismal start to the season (nary a point in 3 stabs). The medicos say that had nothing to do with it, but it wasn’t helping things. In my near death condition I couldn’t even discern between the two Milan’s. Luckily the miraculous recovery has occurred just in time for the Premiership to kick things off.

Browns owner Randy Lerner has finally sprung for Aston Villa after much wrangling (pending a quirky waiting period that’s required by British law). Most Villa supporters seem to be pleased, but some are concerned that the Browns have been so poor. They should have no worries about that–the Browns are poor mainly because that’s the American football team I support, of course. He won’t be handicapped by a salary cap in England, and he gives his football people free rein. They’ve already landed the most sought after unemployed coach in the country in Martin O’Neill. They’ve gone from a team that was looking at sure relegation this year to solid mid-table status, and even brighter things should be on the horizon.

I was also pleased to see that the next coach to be fired from England’s national team, showed who was running things for now by dropping a nearly useless David Beckham from the squad. ‘Second choice’ Steve, as the sooner than not to be sacked coach has been dubbed, has actually seemed to right most of the wrongs made by Sven as far as squad selection goes. The next coach should appreciate his efforts.

With the Premiership season getting under way at the end of the week, I’ll attempt to shake out the rest of cobwebs and sort out what I really think about the season ahead in a day or so. Even off the medication now, I still think Chelski will surprise the world and finish second best.

Pretty Lousy for a Friday

I had to look at the calendar to make sure it wasn’t the 13th. Nothing is going right today in my world or the football world.

Darren Bent, who was much more intelligent while playing for Ipswich, apparently came close to cutting his arm off trying to make a sandwich. He’s going to miss several weeks for Charlton. Football 365 has compiled a list of quirky injuries. I’m desperately looking for something to brighten the day and those helped.

One of my favorite gaffers, Mick McCarthy is taking over at Wolves. Welcome back to the Championship. That means Wolverhampton Wanderers has to now be added to the list of teams sure to be promoted before Ipswich Town. Oddly enough, Ipswich was recently looking for a manager themselves. McCarthy would have been perfect and would have proven Ipswich really wanted back in the top flight. Instead they pop for Jim Magilton, career coaching record (0-0). We will be mired in the Championship until I’m old. Older.

Alan Curbishley has said he’s not interested in filling what has to be the least attractive post in the Premiership–coaching at Villa. Aston Villa, with the worst chairman in the history of sport in Doug Ellis, has just sacked the worthless David O’Leary, only to find he might well have been the only person on the planet that wanted the job. You can forget any of the big names going there to die. Glenn Hoddle maybe. He’s about as worthless, so there may be some kind of weird balance in that move.

In one bright spot, Damien Duff appears headed for Newcastle. He was one of the few Chelski players I sort of liked. However, they seem to be clearing the way to sign Arsenal’s Ashley Cole. A move that can only be looked at with dread by the rest of the Premiership (and all mankind). I rather like seeing them dump loads of money on worthless pieces and parts, but it hurts when they get it right occasionally. Shipping Del Horno to Valencia opens it up for Cole, and they’re the one team in the league willing to overpay for him now.

Ruud Van Nistlerooy is supposed to return to training with ManU Monday despite all efforts to get rid of him. Unlike their northern rivals, Liverpool, who tend to dump quality players for next to nothing, United have a bit of business sense, and are waiting until they get a reasonable offer. Poor Christiano won’t get a wink of sleep all weekend now.

Or he could–if he tried to watch the second legs of the Intertoto Cup which resumes tomorrow. In what is easily the most worthless and unnecessary Cup competition in Europe. I might even opt for an MLS match over one of those. No. It’s not quite that bad.

It’s Italy

Italy somehow overcame history and beat France in penalty kicks to win the 2006 World Cup. 1-1 (5-3). David Trezeguet helped by being the only one to miss. He’s another one of those much lauded players I’ve never seen do anything of note.

France dug their own grave today. They scored first and quickly on a questionable penalty, but then let Italy right back in it before 20 minutes were played. It was scoreless after that, but France had the better of it the whole way.

Then Zidane, unbelievably, after being worshipped all day by the grovelling ESPN announcers, had a perfect header and planted it perfectly. Unfortunately it wasn’t the ball, what he buried was one Marco Materazzi–who must have been making disparaging comments about his lineage. In what is bound to go down as the first use of video instant replay in soccer (it was rather apparent no official saw it happen), the great Zidane brought his glorious career to an infamous end, and was rightly sent off.

That sparked Italy a bit, but not enough. France then had to yank Thierry Henry, always accused of not showing up in big matches anyway. He was there today, just didn’t accomplish much.

Italy staggerd into penalty kicks having never won in that situation in the World Cup. I’m sure that wasn’t their grand plan, but there they were. The best keeper in the world, against a crazy man (Barthez). Oddly, the penalties ended up having nothing to do with either of them.

France’s two best penalty takers (maybe their 3 best–I’m not sure about Ribery), were all off by the time the chips were down. The one person I thought would have been France’s sure bet, Trezeguet, ended up missing off the bar, while Italy, rather cautiously, buried all their attempts.

Congratulations Italia. It was a pleasure.

Germany Take the Exhibition Match

I don’t know if anyone was bothered, I hardly was, but Germany beat the Whinging Divers 3-1 in what is essentially just a money making exhibition match at the World Cup.

Technically, the match is for third place, but it’s really just a way to pass the time until the big day tomorrow.

You’d expect this sort of game to be more wide open and this one was. It was back and forth action with Germany having the best of it. Schweinsteiger’s two goals were rockets. Kahn finally got to play. Ballack sat. Except for Christiano Ronaldo continuing to collapse at the slightest breath in his direction, the game was well and fairly played. Just about exactly what you’d hope for in this friendly. Even the home crowd got to go home happy.

But, bring on the real show.

Everyone is thinking the final’s going to be a real defensive display. That stands to reason, of course. I think an early goal would change all that and either side have plenty of guns to sneak something inside of 15 minutes. I’m thinking Italy 3-1 in a great match. The start is important, though. If both defenses hold at the beginning, look for it to tighten up the rest of the way. Then it’s a 1-0 nailbiter that could fall either way. Alright, it’s going to fall to Italy anyway. The idiot, Barthez will flub one, if all else fails.

France Foil the Floppers

Merci, France for knocking the scourge of football out of the World Cup. Zinadine Zadane smacked a penalty home midway through the first half and Les Bleus held on for the 1-0 victory over Portugal.

It was a bit ironic France beat them in that fashion. Portugal continued true to form, diving, flopping and crying all over the pitch, begging for a cheap penalty. If they’d worry less about their acting careers, they might be fine footballers some day.

Poor Christiano thinks the ref was biased since he wasn’t having any of it from the Portuguese. I think his days in ManU are numbered. He won’t be welcomed back. Maybe somewhere in Spain.

That sets up a classic final Sunday between Italy and France. With proper football being played. Thank you, football gods.