Tuesday, June 13, 2006

three words: tomas rosicky, baby

It is a pleasure to watch this young man play. He has the perfect balance of ruthlessness and grace to play for Arsenal, too; I hate to say it, but Arsenal may rule a good portion of the civilized world next year. Everyone talks about the first goal, but the second one was my personal favorite: a sweet steal, a confident run, a ball in the corner. Lovely.

I have been thinking lately about that Thing all the great strikers and many of the great midfielders have, that ability to shift into a sort of zen state in which the power runs effortlessly through them, through the ball, sometimes to the point of defying physics. Rosicky has that. Ronaldinho has it, Kaka and Rooney, to name a few. (Gerrard takes it a step beyond and somehow manages to bully his way into the stream of zen from sheer bull-headedness.) When a player is relaxed into the zen stream, the intangible "X", the invisible force, he can embark on a run down the center through a thorny cluster of defenders or fire a strike from 35 yards out and there is a sense of destiny about the goal, a sense that the gods have written it into the law, that nothing short of a cleat to the Achilles' tendon is going to stand in its way.

There was exactly such a moment in the Liverpool v. Milan Champions Final (can't stop thinking about it, can't stop talking about it), and it was, in fact, the moment that turned the tide of the game. Milan had ruled effortlessly through the first half, easily, almost teasingly stealing the ball away whenever Liverpool started in on an attack. Crespo's goals were lovely, and Maldini's came within the first minute, surprising even him. The confident Milanese surge continued in the second half in spite of gritted-toothed, dogged determination from Gerrard and Alonso in pursuit of the elusive goal. Then, at the 50th minute, grace descended, ushered in by a sacrificial foul.

Kaka had stolen the ball and launched on an explosive run down the middle, one of the zen runs which feel inevitable, unstoppable, and it looked like Milan's rule would go unchallenged. Then, coolly and cleanly, Sami Hyypia brought him down hard with one subtle motion of the foot. It was easily a red-card crime, and he managed to walk away with a warning. It was a gamble, as Shevchenko took the kick, but by then, the zen had descended on the entire team. For ten long minutes, Liverpool could do no wrong.

At the 54th, Riise's cross was perfectly finished by a header from Gerrard. A minute later Smicer put one into the net. At the 59th, Gerrard embarked on his own wildfire plunge toward the goal and Gattuso tried the Hyypia trick but without the same luck, as Alonso pulled off a rebound on his saved kick to equalise. It was the 60th minute, exactly ten since Hyypia's foul turned their luck, ten minutes of magic. After that, the gods backed away again and the boys in red were on their own, but they never gave up the struggle, and pulled off the win.

The Zen moment: it's the thing I love most about football. So far in this World Cup, Rosicky has been my favorite deliverer of beauty. If only he were coming to West Ham.

1 comment:

Ghost Dog said...

Did I say how jacked up I am about Rosicky coming to Arsenal?

Oh yeah, I absolutely did!