Monday, June 26, 2006

carnage and bogus kerfuffle

The brilliance is off the orange, and nothing's shiny about Portugal, either. What an appalling spectacle. Great flutterings of cards, yellow and red, until Lynda muttered, "I wonder if he ever runs out of those." Such a stew of wounds and dives that I gave up trying to discern one from the other. Plays degenerating into such turmoil that nobody was certain how properly to resume play. Shouts escalating into shoving, which more than once turned into a sort of tribal stand-off, enemy warriors on the verge of combat.

In the end, whatever you say against Portugal (and you might, indeed, speak quite a piece), they showed impressive bravery in continuing their attacking game even after their first man was lost to the dread red card. He was Costinha, a defending midfielder and a crux on which Scolari centers his defensive system. Holland at that point had three forwards on the green: Robben, Kuyt, Van Persie. Later, as players were driven off the field in great locust-like swarms of red cards, Van Basten replaced one of his defenders (Mathijsen) with an attacking midfielder (Van der Vaart) only to see one of his remaining defenders (Boulahrouz) fall to the Red Plague, leaving him only two. He eventually righted the imbalance, and a good thing, because a third defender (Van Bronckhorst) fell to the same sickness before festivities wrapped. Today everyone asks WHERE WAS RUUD? An interesting question. Does anyone know why he sent on Vennegoor of Hesselink instead?

In any case, it's all immaterial now. It was horrible and fascinating, this match, the old proverbial train-wreck, and I could not for love or money avert my eyes. Never have I seen a game that felt so likely to end in a street-fight (and, remember, I watched Croatia v. Australia). Never was a victory so entirely devoid of sweetness (and I am a Portugal fan). Never did I so wonder about the post-game safety of a referee. Has anyone checked? Did the Russian fellow make it back to his digs all right?

Lynda put it succinctly and well when she said, "This is awful. If they go into overtime, I'm getting drunk."

This, after I'd been talking Portugal enthusiastically up to my cohorts. They're starting to give me sidelong looks, what with my newfound Aussie-fondness (I am the only one here at a pretty move, I think, who realizes full well that the Socceroos are not thugs, not in the least, but Tough Gentlemen. Think Kirk Douglas, or Clark Gable) and now my passion for a team who can inspire Holland to ugliness and rancor and physical violence. Holland! That paragon of all which is lovely and geometrical! (Do not think I blame Portugal alone for the ugliness, not a bit. Holland has entirely as much shadow to carry in this fiasco.) My compadres have begun looking at me as if they suspect I have a secret cache of BDSM porn in the closet.

Still, in the end, I stand by Portugal. Nothing pretty about it, but I come away from the debacle with this: in all the swarming hideosity, they never gave an inch, never considered backing off, not for a second. They got a little Italian about it, sure, but, in fairness, so did Holland. When Portugal's best road to victory dwindled and died, they switched to an alternate track, then another, until they--well, they stumbled into their win, thick with blood and infamy.

It matters little, in the end. England's up next, and so--sorry, Deco--they have to go.

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