Sunday, July 09, 2006

No Ifs Or Butts

Italy 1-1 France (Italy win 5-3 on Penalties)

Oh, Zizou. What a stupid, stupid thing to do. Into extra-time, and staring down the barrel of a penalty shoot-out. Having already lost Vieira and Henry to substitutes, we can only speculate over what was going through his mind, and it's fair to say that his moment of impetuous insanity cost France the World Cup. What the hell dic Materazzi say to him, though? It must have been the best insult ever. He has got form for losing his rag, though - he got himself sent off at France 98 for stamping. One would have expected him to have developed a little more maturity since then, though.

Up until then, it looked like it was going to be his night. His early penalty, chipped nonchalantly off the underside of the crossbar as Buffon dived the other way, was yet further proof of his arrogant genius. There was no great debate over the fact Materazzi's tackle was a foul - but the indication was certainly there that this was to be a night on which Materazzi would prove to be the central figure. His equalizer, a perfect header from a terrifc corner (the French struggled with Italian set-pieces throughout), was no less than he deserved. He had picked himself up, dusted himself down and was, for me, the man of the match.

France had looked the stronger of the two teams, but things started to unravel for them in the second half. Vieira went off with what looked like a thigh strain, but when Henry went off as well, it became clearer and clearer that this perhaps wouldn't be their night after all. Before Zidane went off, he brought a brilliant one-handed save out of Buffon, but then the red mist descended, and everything changed. Curiously, given their record in penalty shootouts, the Italians didn't seem to want to take advantage of this, and retreated further and further back into their own half.

Anyone that suspected that the Italians might buckle again under the pressure of another penalty shootout was to be mistaken. The Italians comfortably put away all of their spot kicks with a bit to spare. Only David Trezeguet missed, and even that was by the slimmest of margins. Surely, though, he will be forgiven. The blame for France's defeat ultimately lays with Zidane.

In a World Cup without an outstanding team, Italy deserved to win. Brilliantly organised at the back, and with goals coming from all over the pitch, they won a difficult group and overcame the hosts en route to the final. Having come into the tournament on their best run of form in over sixty years, they continued in their stride. Worthy winners indeed. For the French, though, nothing but regret. This is the last we'll see of the "golden generation" of 1998, and whether they have many top quality replacements coming through is open to question. The majority of their players deserved better than the ending that they got tonight, but one didn't -and that the World Cup went to Italy is something for which, I guess, we should all be kind of grateful.


discostu said...

I was rooting for italy from the off, as i agree that on the balance of the tournament they deserved it, but once "Zizou" lost the plot i wanted France to win. Just so they could claim the trophy, and dance around like twats, with their captain unable to leave the dressing room to join them. I thought it was a nice touch that he had to walk past the trophy to leave the field.
Whatever nastyness, racial, verbal, threat whatever was made towards him, you would have thought someone who spends his time before a game meditating would have been able to ignore it for 10 minutes. And them maybe stab them to death in the car park afterwards.

I wish that whatever team wins though would have the good grace to NOT TOUCH THE TROPHY until the captain is presented with it. That just gets on my tits.

colin said...

There's a good way around that. Stop giving people trophies on silly little fucking platforms in the middle of the pitch.

Moore said...

No offence, but I cannot stand analysis that justifies a winner on penalties. Nobody won the damn game, but the Italians can kick it harder in a straght(ish) line on this occasion.

Incidentally, 9:1 the shootout. That brings earnings for this cup to £310. Bosh.

discostu said...

I still cant make up my mind whether i like or dislike penalties, and whether golden goal or not is a good/bad thing. Moore - would you prefer a replay rather than penalties, or perhaps an unending extra time with golden goal?

twohundredpercent said...

The MLS used to use a run-in from the halfway line, giving each outfield player 10 seconds to score. This would, I feel, be fairer to all concerned - more people used to miss, and there was less pressure on the individual players concerned.

Moore said...

I am also quite fond of the MLS experiment, and am confused as to why it's never been trialled in some minor cup. I also quite liked the suggestion that during extra time one man should be removed from both teams every five minutes, until it ends up in both goalies having a fight in the center circle.

colin said...

I think they were using them for a very different purpose in the MLS, which possibly better suited the longer format - it's also something North America is more used to, bearing a certain resemblance to ice hockey penalties.

Technically, in football, a shoot out doesn't alter the result of the match. That remains a draw and the kicks are just used to select someone to progress to the next round, substituting for the old coin toss or drawing of lots.

In the MLS, they were using runs from 35 yards to contrive a winner in the event of a draw, so it was happening every single weekend.

I think they dropped it about five or six years ago when somebody finally managed to convince them that a tie is a perfectly valid result in league games.

Personally, I don't think it's any better than a kick from the spot.

carlos said...

I liked the MLS 35-yard system. It simulates an actual game situation much better than the artificial PK system. I think Cruyff was a bit fond of it but it has never been tried anywhere. I personally think it would add much more drama than what we currently have. I mean, I may be wrong, but I think the majority of people hate the PKs. I know I do.

twohundredpercent said...

Is it my imagination, or are penalty kicks less tense than they used to be? All the penalty shootouts in this World Cup seemed to be over very quickly.

discostu said...

I didnt find the england portugal one any less tense!

Design by Dzelque Blogger Templates 2007-2008