Thursday, July 06, 2006

all at once, the italians are fun again

Who can resist a laugh when Perrotta (of all humans! I counted four personal dives in the first half alone against Ukraine. Shameless!) makes his little diving motion at a prone Michael Ballack? What exactly did Gattuso say to Ballack that set him into a Rooney-like rage after their collision? And how can you argue with a team that waits until overtime to sneak not one but two goals in past Lehmann? It was an excellent day at the pitch all the way around.

It's a liberating thing, watching two teams you hate at battle. Your subconscious immediately chooses one side as the lesser of two evils: in this case, the Italians. (How could Germany gloat about its victory over the Argentines? Take out their keeper with a knee to the ribs then win in penalties? Where's the glory in that?) It wasn't long, then, before I began to feel a certain fondness for Camoranesi on his tireless and fierce run up and down the wing, and an admiration for the tough Buffon, who'd caught my attention when he bashed his head against the post midway into the Ukraine match and still never gave up a goal. Here is not a man, I said to myself, who would fold beneath German batterings, and if they did manage to stretch play once more into a penalty shoot-out, this is the fellow I'd trust manning the line.

When the goals came, one hard upon the other, I was cheering as lustily as anyone at Beulahland.

That said, I promised my brother that the Italians will not take the Cup. He's scheduled this Sunday to be on a train from Rome to Bosnia and if Italy wins there's a chance the whole country will shut down and he'll be stuck forlornly on a station bench under a sky effulgent with flares and clamoring with the noise of carnival pandemonium.

So France it is. The noble Zidane, the great-hearted Ribery, the very delicate Henry.

I had the pleasure yesterday of watching France v Portugal alongside Derek. My own hopes for France trickle from the shell of a broken heart, whereas his are strong and hardy, but even I bit my nails to the nubs during those last minutes. Here's Portugal on relentless and determined attack, and here's Barthez, shifted firmly into wacky mode. What will he do next? Throw the ball into his own goal in tribute to the absurdity of life? Nothing can be ruled out when Barthez is in goal; it is part of his charm. Derek is screaming BAR-THEEEEEZ on a rising note, like a warning, and suddenly, at the back of the cluster of players, who's that in the blue? Ricardo! With a distinctly Barthez-like flair, unable to stay helpless in goal while the match might be lost at the other end, he runs the length of the pitch to help out! Excellent. As darkly as I hate Cristiano Ronaldo now (it was that wink. A grown-up does not defecate where he eats, my pretty little Mancusian compadre), I'd have gladly seen Portugal into penalties as long as it was Ricardo who equalised.

Still, I'd have regretted it in the morning. Far better that France took their win straight up. It wasn't the tidiest of victories, and they will have to pull together as they did against Brazil in order to vanquish the trickster Italians, but it'll do for now.

Contented, my throat sore from hollering, I take my hat off to the Europeans for two intoxicating days of football.


ausurfer said...

Interesting story I read just now:
Researchers try to formulate the perfect penalty shot.
Mathematicians and psychologists are trying to turn the World Cup
tiebreakers into a science.

Zach Dundas said...

Ricardo's foray into the offensive end was worth the entire game.

activist kaza said...

Sorry, your brother's screwed. Italy can't lose to France on Sunday because Buffon is possibly the greatest goalie of all time and won't concede anything in this final. Prediction: 1-0, Italy.

Lisa said...

I don't know. He's a priest. It's possible that he has connections. We'll see.

The interesting question for me is whether the Italians will use their strengths and skills, which they obviously have but which require effort, or rather revert to their lazy shenanigans?