'Un fin de epoque'
World Cup Final:
Italy 1 (5) - France 1 (3)
I hardly know where to begin with a match that was at times exhilarating, at others infuriating, at times confusing, and in the final moments downright disappointing for any fan of Les Bleus.
Needless to say, the spirit is decidedly more blue in Paris than the national football team would have it.
For the French, the loss in penalty kicks means the end of an era. Everyone has recognized this. With Zidane's exit from the world stage, Viera's unlikely return to the international pitch, and a slew of new stars banging at the gate, Les Bleus look ready for a complete overhaul.
Italy is team that should not have won the World Cup. As a blogger, I reserve the right to state my firm opinion that the Italian squad is a collection of overagressive, unsportsman-like thugs that rely on dramatics, cheap shots and insults to win games. While there are exceptions to these convictions, (most notably Buffon, a terrific goalkeeper, Totti, the heart of the Italian attack, and Cannavaro, the bastion of the Italian defense) I feel strongly that Italy's world cup title is, and should be stained by their questionable play. The Italians were NEVER an honest squad that played the game within the rules and looked to win honestly. They would elbow, hold, insult, dive, beg for calls, and showboat like the primadonnas that their attackmen are at the earliest convinience.
My disdain for Team Italy is not rooted in their Final but in their bloodbath with Team USA almost 2 weeks ago. In that game, the Italians revealed themselves to be cry babies, dirty thugs and showboats. Upon scoring the only Italian goal, the Italian forward dropped to one knee and begin to "play a violin" for the exit of America. This was UNDOUBTEDLY the most offensive act of showboating that was exhibited this World Cup. FIFA should have taken action, but the event only revealed what I have become convinced about the Italians; they are primadonnas by definition.
Their coach expressed that it would be their hunger for a title and for glory that would propel the Italians into the winners circle. He was right. Italy's perfection in penalty kicks did ensure the Italian victory. Here, the Italians deserve great praise. They were willing to put it all on the line for the World Cup title, and would not be denied a single goal.
France's lethargy in the PK's doomed them to defeat. Not that Terezgut must be blamed for losing the World Cup, (Henry, Zidane and Barthez might merit that award), but his crossbar bounce out revealed France's detachment from what was happening.
Zidane In short order, What the fuck was Zinedine Zidane thinking when he headbutted Marco Materazzi in extra time? As an experienced soccer player, with a reputation for composure on the pitch, Zidane knows and is prepared for the occasional insult. It has been reported that Materazzi called Zidane a terrorist (on account of his Algerian Muslim roots) and attacked his mother. Neverthelss, for Zidane to lose his cool is unexcusable. His choice to headbutt the Italian not only merited his departure from the game, but also set up France's loss in penalty kicks.
Zidane is a seasoned player, the French captain and an international hero. Without him at the helm, the French seemed shaken and unfocused as the headed into the penalty kick show down. While you never want to play the, "if Zidane hadn't..." game, it is certain that even his presence at the end of the game woudl have been a comfort for fans. Imagine for a moment, the way the game could have ended. Italy wins 5-3 in penalty kicks, and Zidane receives a standing ovation. Smiling, the ubiqutous Frenchmen waves to the 1 billion people watching the World Cup, and signs off in style.
If only that could have happened.
Henry Another person guilty of France's defeat is Theirry Henry. Although the striker did receive a hard hit barely a minute into the game, it is certain that had he played how he usually does in the English Premiership, he would have easily buried a goal or two and ensured a French victory. His inability to put away a winner, or almost any goal at all is embarassing. He is regarded to be the finest striker in Europe. How come he can't score in the World Cup?
So Italy's victory is soaked in controversy over Zidane, match-fixing at home and dirty play throughout the tournament. While they are the champions, and should be celebrated for winning out a defensive World Cup, I personally hope that the 2010 champion is a team with grace, power and prowess, that will show the world how to play soccer and how to be a model athlete.
I also hope that I will be in South Africa for a match, a week, or the entire tournament. Hoping and waiting, I will see you all in 2010.