Monday, July 10, 2006

Football Takes A Dive

Enraged : French midfielder Zinedine Zidane (L) gestures after head butting Italian defender Marco Materazzi during the World Cup 2006 final football match between Italy and France at BerlinÂ’s Olympic Stadium. Italy won the 2006 World Cup defeating France 5-3 on penalties. (AFP/John MacDougall)

The Italian Diving Team hoisted the World Cup trophy last night, after Zinedine Zidane was sent off in overtime for headbutting the Italian defender Materazzi. I cannot help but believe that Materazzi said something racially offensive to Zidane, a Frenchman of Algerian heritage who had read FIFA's empty anti-racism message before every knockout round match. (But see the BBC article that says Materazzi insulted Zidane's mother. Yo Momma!) A painful ending for all of us who love the Beautiful Game, to have the most cynical team in the tournament the last one standing. Let's close the book on the 2006 World Cup with a Best and Worst list.

BEST COACH: Jurgen Klinsmann (Germany). Though he got outcoached in the semifinal against Italy, he wins the award for making Germans believe in more than just the German team.

WORST COACH: As an American, I have to give Bruce Arena (USA) the worst coach award. At least Sven Moron Erickson (England) and Jose Pekerman (Argentina) won a few games. And they didn't have press conferences excoriating their players by name after losses. Bruce must go. Klinsi, come home to San Diego, only 20 minutes away from the USA training center!

BEST PLAYER: The journalists who award the Golden Ball gave it to Zidane in a close vote over Italy captain Fabio Cannavaro (2,012 to 1,977), and I can't disagree with that. If Cannavaro hadn't knocked Thierry Henry out in the first minute of the game, I would have given it to him, but he did and I won't. Zidane was magnificent in the knockout round. His game against Brazil was one for the ages.

BEST GOAL: Maxi Rodriguez's chest trap, blast volley goal against Mexico in overtime, hands down. Brilliant goal, and the gamewinner. Second place for me was Beckham's free kick goal, because it was a great goal and it won the game.

WORST PLAYER: Daniele DeRossi of Italy, the guy who elbowed Brian McBride in the face.

BIGGEST DISAPPOINTMENT: Brazil and Ronaldhino. He was hamstrung by the coach's formation, but I expected more from the World Player of the Year. Second place, the Americans and Bruce Arena's decision to make Eddie Pope the Jeff Agoos of 2006. Last October I predicted this:

Eddie Pope? I think Bruce sees his past more than he sees his present. I love and adore Eddie Pope, but he's done at the international level. Once you lose that step as a defender, it's over. Can you see him going head to head with Wayne Rooney? Kaka? Eto'o? Shevchenko? Nope. We tried this last World Cup (Jeff Agoos) with disastrous results.
And there was Eddie Pope, waving his hand for an offsides call as Alberto Gilardino, the Italian he was failing to mark, scored a header past Kasey Keller. If only Arena had started Conrad from the get-go. We coulda been a contender!

BEST YOUNG PLAYER: I'm not using a rigid age limit. For me this category is a tie between Franck Ribery of France, the man who ran so France's old folks could conserve their energy, and Philip Lahm of Germany, the best tiny defender since Ashley Cole.

BEST OLD PLAYER: Keeper Shaka Hislop of Trinidad & Tobago (age 37) was called into the T&T game against Sweden at the last minute as regular keeper Kelvin Jack was injured in warm-ups. Hislop stoned the Swedes with a number of spectacular saves to make the game the BEST 0-0 TIE of the tournament.

BIGGEST VILLAIN: Must be Sepp Blatter for giving us this hideous refereeing with his edict telling referees cards must fly. Ruined the tournament. If only he had announced that diving must be curtailed. No way would be Italy be holding the trophy today if that were so.

WORST ANNOUNCER: Dave O'Brien (Dumb) by a whisker over his boothmate, Marcelo Balboa (Dumber). OK, they were both horrible, but O'Brien seems to think he's earned the job. Listening him to talk about Italy having gone from a man marking defense to more of a zone yesterday -- a man who knows nothing about soccer, nothing, it was just pathetic. Please god, let ESPN fire both their sorry asses and start over. Can we steal Martin Tyler from Australia, anyone?

WORST PERFORMANCE BY A TELEVISION NETWORK: And the envelope goes to ESPN. Where to start? Let's hire a lead announcer who doesn't know anything about the world's most popular sport! Let's lower the crowd noise so everyone can hear every stupid word out of our stupid announcers' mouths! Let's use huge graphics that obscure the screen! Let's skip the national anthems of US opponents! Let's skip national anthems altogether if the US isn't playing! Let's show the lineups in groups, on top of the action after the game has started! Let's hire one of the most hated announcers in sports to anchor the booth (Musberger). Let's cut away immediately after matches!

BEST PERFORMANCE BY A TELEVISION NETWORK: Univision. I couldn't understand much more than pelota, but I could follow the game better than with Dumb and Dumber pissing me off.

PERSONAL HIGH POINT: Arriving at the stadium in Gelsenkirchen for the US-Czech Republic game to find that my Row 1 tickets that I assumed would be in the upper deck were in the actual front row, right behind the tent through which the players entered the field. Unfortunately my PERSONAL LOW POINT was that 3-0 trouncing by the Czechs. Ouch.

Great tournament though and kudos to the German people who were great hosts.

WaPo: The Golden Boot

WaPo: France's Zidane Sees Red, Ends Fabled Career With an Ejection

Jere Longman, NYTimes: A Star Falters, France Fades, Italy Rejoices

BBC: Zidane blamed Materazzi comment

BBC: European press review: World Cup

Guardian (uk): Italy strike gold as Zidane sees red


Mark Lawrenson (Lawro), Mirror (uk): GOODBYE CRUEL WORLD


Times (uk): Materazzi mystery hangs over the party in Rome

BBC: World Cup Final photos

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i think its all crap wat u sayin and believe the best spirtual team won the tournament jst coz USA didnt even go through the groups doesnt mean other team r better!!!!!so get real and get proper facts before talking!!!!!