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Italy Beat Germany in the Old Italian Style

Italy’s defense bent a little, but never broke, and gave the Italians a 2-0 win over the hosts in extra time. The German defense looked up to the task, surprisingly. Except for a shot off the post and another off the bar in the first extra period, Italy hardly threatened.

The Italians seemed to get a corner every other minute, but would just lamely loft it right in to Lehmann every time. It took a great shot from Fabio Grosso, just a minute or so from penalty kicks, followed seconds later by the clincher by Del Piero to finally break the German hearts.

Obviously, Italy shouldn’t have wanted it to come down to penalties. Germany surely wins if they’d have just held out a few seconds longer. Italy (like England) never wins them, Germany never loses them. Italy would have had very slim hopes to finally do so in Dortmund.

You have to say it played out exactly the way the Italians would have wanted. In a defensive battle, they’d expect to be able to hang on while waiting for a lapse from Germany. It never came. In fact, Germany looked better in the back than the Italians did. It took a lightening strike to win it, that no defense was going to be able to stop.

If only Michael Ballack was as good as he thinks he is, Germany probably win easily today. He was handled effectively by Gattuso all day long. A supposedly great player, completely ineffective the entire match.

Other than him, though, the German team were great the whole tournament. Hats off to Klinsmann. The defense I thought was going to be porous, shut down everyone.

But the World Cup is going to Roma.

It’s Now on Italy

The entire World Cup for me now rests in the hands of Italy. I hate the other three teams more or less passionately.

The diving, crying (and England beating) Portugal. Who are good enough not to have to play that way, but choose to do so anyway. I have no respect for them. The refs deserve their share of blame for some of what has gone on in this World Cup, but the shameful gamesmanship, especially by Portugal, is the main problem. It’s rampant, and a blight on the current game. I actually liked them going in. They were one of my underdog picks to slip into the finals. Now they disgust me. From Figo on down. Actually, from Scolari on down. Winning may be everything–but do it right or not at all.

Germany, I’ve never really liked. How could you, really? But it’s more their past that I can’t get over. The boring, mechanical defensive games they always played. This team is different. If I could erase all my other memories of them and start with a clean slate, I might actually be pulling for them now. They are a team full of complete and utter jerks, though. Schweinsteiger’s rap sheet is endless for someone as young as he is. Ballack gets along with no one but himself. The neverending saga between the two whinging goalkeepers Kahn and Lehmann–both good–both would prefer not being on the same planet as the other, let alone the same team. Klinsmann was right to stay in California as far away as he could get from this lot. I don’t really have anything against jerks per se, though. It doesn’t really matter to me what sort of people they are–they’re just footballers to me. I just can’t bring myself to root for a team I’ve always rooted against. Anyway, playing at home is enough of an advantage–reason enough to be against them.

The only thing good I have to say about France is Henry and Zidane. I like them both. Enjoy watching both play. Almost always pull for them no matter what team they are on. I hope they both continue to do well in the World Cup, while France lose as embarrassingly as possible. My main issue with France is their fans. I’ve never met one that I didn’t hate. I can’t possibly pull for a team supported by fans like that. The most cynical, by far, in the world. Most people have a love/hate relationship with their national teams (or adopted national teams, as the case may be). The French just hate theirs. Except when they happen to win. I can’t tolerate that.

So it’s down to Italy. My full and unyielding support now belongs to the Azzurri. I’m well aware of the problems going on in Italy. I don’t want to hear anymore. I don’t care right now. I know the team isn’t a bunch of sweet little angels. I don’t mind the odd elbow here and there, but I hope Totti can refrain from spitting on anyone. I like Buffon–even though I’m aware he finds some questionable things ‘funny’. I like Luca Toni. I like Del Piero. Gattuso. They’re my kind of team.

Unfortunately for them. My support is a very dangerous thing. Just look at England, Ipswich, Charlton, Indians, Browns, Cavs… the list is as long as I want it to be. Whomever I support, is soon headed for trouble. The Italians already had the weight of the world on their shoulders and did okay up to now. We’ll see how they handle the dread of having my full support. It spells almost certain doom. Call your bookies now (fans only please).

France Finish a Thoroughly Disgusting Day

France beat Brazil 1-0. TH-12 finally played like TH-14, and managed the goal to get past the reputed, best team in the world. Guess that’s why they have to play the matches. To ruin my day.

All three of France’s fans are probably over the moon. At least there were 3 before the tournament started. There will be 3 million of them now.

Zidane was fabulous. If he think’s he’s over the hill, then 90% of the players in the world ought to quit as well. Maybe he’s angling for an MLS spot.

I think it was a good match. I was still a bit gutted over the first result of the day, though. I certainly didn’t want it to end. Especially not 1-0 to France.

Sickening but Expected

England lose once again on penalties, this time to the diving Portugal 0-0 (3-1). I was thinking about a holiday there soon, I hope the women go down as easily as their footballers.

England have no gas pedal to step on. They were pathetic the entire cup. No offense whatsoever. You keep waiting for them to show up, but there’s nothing there. Good riddence Sven, take McClaren with you, please.

The ref actually did a decent job in the match. Rooney, being Rooney once again, was sent off as he should have been. There were dives, typical anytime Portugal is playing, but it didn’t get out of hand.

England looked orders of multitude better after Lennon came on for a nothing Beckham. They looked on the verge of being able to put something together, but it never materialized. Picking Crouch for the team was comical. Either Darren or Marcus Bent would have been a massive improvement to the side. Either would have given England a chance in this game. Defoe? Anyone, someone that can possibly produce some offense? Rather than continuously chipping flyers at Frankenstein and hoping for a bounce.

I think I’d feel better with a 10 yr old girls team taking penalties than the England team. They have to be the worst in the universe at it. No confidence at all. They never had a chance once it came down to that. You might think the law of averages would eventually swing their way–but the law of ‘rubbish at penalty kicks’ supercedes that one. Lampard, Gerrard, Carragher (put in just to take the kick)–all money players who choked.

Ta England. Now, where’s my Ipswich fixture list?

Who Were Those Guys?

Football came back after a couple of days off with a nervous, but highly entertaining match. In what had to be touted as the match-up of the quarterfinals, Germany clipped Argentina with penalty kicks 1-1 (4-2).

Germany reverted back to the old-style, looking adequate in defense, but showing no offense. I’m not sure who the guys were in the blue. They looked nothing like the Argentinian team that was playing up to now. Playing a very solid team–in that team’s home, in the quarterfinals, would tend to do that to you. It also didn’t help that the keeper went out with an injury that screwed up the substitution rotation. Peckerman opted for fresh legs in the midfield rather than bolster a flagging front line. Hindsight is 20/20, but that was clearly the wrong choice now.

Despite both teams being the class of the tournament going in, offenses clipping away at a steady clip. Chances were hard to come by for either side.

You never liked Argentina’s chances if it came down to kicks. Germany, at home would have been enough, but the Argies also had to cope with their number two keeper guarding the net. He did a fair job of it, though.

In the end it was the home crowd lifting up the tired Germans just enough to beat the dead Argentinian legs. By that time, every one of Argentina’s main scoring threats were on the bench watching.

Klinsmann’s American training tactics seem to have paid off a little as well. Except for Ballack, who might need to get with the program, the German side looked fresher at the end than the South American’s did.

This sets up a very possible German/Italy match in the semis (please don’t let Ukraine win). Perhaps not as thrilling as Italy/Argentina with both sides on their games would have been, but still…