Thursday, June 22, 2006

i didn't sleep at all last night

In the past two days I've been the sole Portugal fan in a room full of Mexico supporters, one of a small (and ultimately abashed) crew of Czech fans in a restaurant packed with Italians, and cheering robustly alongside a contingent of Aussies. Today alone I beheld what may be the two ugliest goals I've seen in my life: Inzaghi for the Italians, and Kalac for the Croats (yes, I consider it a keeper's own goal. The fumble was that bad).

What happened to the Czechs? You seduced me with your winning ways, then collapsed before consummation. Italian operatic buffoonery doesn't seem quite as amusing when there's a beloved team at the other end of the pitch. That said, it would take a dourer person than I to resist a belly-laugh at Gattuso's yellow card move: scrabbling across the ground, clawing at Medved's legs. But that in turn invokes the horrific image of Peter Cech, alone, abandoned, crawling on the pitch at Inzaghi's feet. Where did everyone go? Did I see a Czech player crumpled on the far end of the pitch? Is that why nobody came? Is there a reason for that nightmare moment?

I was watching at Piazza d'Italia, a wonderful place, where the spontaneous roars of heartfelt joy that filled the room at every turn in Italian favor at least sheared the worst edges off my first real World Cup disappointment. Medved fought bravely, and I am as bemused as I ever was at the praise which seems to follow Baros around.

For the second leg I met Derek at the Marathon and sat in a crowd of Australians watching both matches at once. I was determined to focus on the Socceroos, but who can resist watching, once Brazil falls into The Magical Place? (Ronaldo! Good on you, mate.) Once Brazil settled into their easy glide to victory, we were free to turn full attention back to a game that was as exciting as any I've ever seen, and probably the most physical. BRUISINGLY physical, right from the start, with Croats emerging from the locker room cleats-first, as it were, and kid-gloves long discarded. The Aussies, fortunately in this case, are no shrinking violets, and plunged head-first into the fray, never stopping for breath. The last half was heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and when Kewell's 79th-minute equaliser came, the room erupted. Off-side? I don't care. The ref was ignoring one infraction after another from the Croats, including a blatant handball, brutal tackles in the box and a temper on Simunic that made Kewell's post-Brazil rant look like an invitation to tea. How come the Croatian fellow gets to hit the ref in the arm and get away with it? It's not like all the rest of us never wanted to. Do we all get a turn?

Ultimately, as badly as it began, my day became full-on magic. There's nothing better than a great game, except a great game that your team wins. Thanks you, Aussies, and thank you, Brazil.

Tonight, I sleep soundly and dream of pretty moves.


sal said...

i know some of you like to bad mouth italy because of some boring style play, or whatever, but ashlawy, top o' the group!

Lynda said...

Oh, speaking for myself (and Derek said I could speak for him), I got nothing against Italy except that they were playing against a team I liked a lot, the Czechs.

I do find Italian soccer disappointing--Italians themselves have such a passion for it, I wish I felt it.

sal said...

i understand. i evn understand your lac
ck of enthusiasm for the typical italian style. my favoritism towards them comes from coaching and a firm philosophical belief in starting with a solid defense.

beerick said...

I feel that Italian soccer is the most disappointing of the superpowers (teams such as Germany, Italy, England, Brazil who consistently place high and occasionally win). First, the Italian system is terribly corrupt. No longer is that any news...but remember what happened to the scoring south korea player who knocked Italy out of the Quarter-final. He was fired. Then there is the diving. It is a problem pervasive throughout soccer, but the diving in the Italian league is far above and beyond any league of comparable support. And lastly, it's friggin boring. Beyond the fact that Italian supporters tend to be younger, cuter, and more female than those of other teams, they do start and end with a solid defensive foundation...I'm surprised that stick whittling hasn't become competitive with the Serie A. Then again, poker is the big thing here.

My biggest complaint with the US performance is that they made me root for the Italians for nothing.

Lisa said...

I've got to say, after today's match against Australia, Italy's been relegated in my mind to the lowest rings of hell, where only Germany also dwells. How awful is it to lose THAT way? On an obviously bogus penalty set up by a drama queen like Gattuso? It's not the boredom factor that makes me shudder when I see the Italians come on pitch, it's their love of underhanded and evil-minded tactics. Ugly. In fact, were those Italians wearing Portuguese kits yesterday?

Derek said...

Man, I thought yesterday's game was cynical and over-the-top. Okay, it still beats today's Australia/Italy game for most OOT moments, but the finale today was one of the most disgusting, cynical conclusions I've ever seen. I never thought I'd say this, but Australia was absolutely robbed.

No offense, Sal, but you gotta admit that was a pretty dirty move.