Sunday, July 09, 2006

Italy is World Cup 2006 Champions

In the end, it was not so much the play on the field as it was luck that gave Italy their fourth World Cup Championship.

Italy was out played for the overwhelming majority of the 120-minutes of regular play. France was taking it to them again and again, yet somehow Italy's defense was able to hold and when it did not, Gianluigi Buffon came up with the needed saves. How Buffon was able to get a hand on Zidane's amazing header, I will never know.

On the other end, Fabien Barthez really should have stopped Marco Materazzi's tying goal in the 19th. It was a difficult save, but not impossible and in the World Cup finals, you need to make all the difficult saves.

Still, the biggest story of the night, other then Italy claiming the cup, was Zidane's head butt to Materazzi's chest. I'm not sure if it was because Materazzi was holding him or if he said something that sent Zidane off, but that is not the sort of play you expect from such a player. The ref had no choice but to end Zidane's soccer career on a red card.

That card shifted the game. France was still the only one that challenged for the rest of regular time, but it was a weak attack. Everyone could sense it, suddenly Italy had the energy.

How Zidane could be so foolish is beyond me. His team was stretching Italy all over the field. They were tired and flat. Penalty kicks were very likely at that point, and as France's pk taker, no matter what Materazzi did, Zidane should have just walked away. But he did not and to penalty kicks we went.

Oddly enough, it is not because Barthez made a mistake that France lost, instead it is due to David Trezeguet failing to convert his shot. He caught Buffon going the wrong way, but the second freshest set of legs out on the pitch could not make the shot, as he banged it off the bar. One will only have to wonder how different things would have been if Zidane would have been there to take a shot (maybe even that shot).

Italy, stirred on in part by Zidane's red card, was able to play it cool and make every shot they took. Barthez went the wrong way on just about every attempt, but other then the very first one, which went right up the center, he had no chance at stopping any of them. When Fabio Grosso found the net for the fifth pk, it was over, Italy were World Cup Champions.

So, congratulations to Italy. I was not overly impressed with their style of play during the cup (especially their great love for the dive), but still, they are the champions, proving once again, that even the better team will loose in soccer if they can't get the ball in the net.


From the American perspective, we can take some pride that we were the only team the Italy played and did not beat (1-1 tie). The US doesn't have much to brag about right now, but we do have that.

On a different note, I'm sure this game will bring up the question of whether or not penalty kicks should be used to decide a World Cup final. Is it fair that France out played Italy, yet they lost because one person missed what should have been an easy shot?

I'm not a big fan of shootouts, but I'm even less of a fan of watching people collapse on the pitch. The average soccer player in a pro league runs 7 miles a match. Add overtime to that and you are looking at 8-9 miles in two hours. Keep in mind, those miles are not on some cushy track, they take place with players banging into one another. That is going to lead to exhausting and an increased chance of injury.

If you do not want to see penalty kicks, and instead have them play till someone wins in overtime, know that such alternative will result in watching a game where players are not playing their best, and one that will probably not be decided by some great play, but instead by a sloppy mistake.

I would rather see teams take their chance with a shootout.

One last little bit of interest, I watched the game at a bar with about 60 people. The crowd was just about evenly divided between French and Italian supporters. You could easily tell what was happening in the match by who was cheering and who was booing. However, there was one time when just about every person in the bar burst out in wild celebration. It was not due to a goal or penalty, instead it was when ABC showed former President Bill Clinton watching the game. I say this not to talk about politics, but just as an interesting observation.

The only other moment when everyone was in agreement was when they showed the footage of Zidane giving Materazzi's chest a close-up view of his bald head, but that resulted in more of a laugh then a cheer.

Only four more years till 2010.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've seen the HIT, it's on, it was really HOT

5:59 PM  
Anonymous john said...

I think pk's are a terrible way to decide a world championship. Why not have a throw in contest? Or see which goalie can punt the ball further? They have about as much to do with the game of soccer as to pk's. They should either play until they drop, or come back tomorrow and try it again. PK's tell me nothing about which is the better team.

6:27 PM  
Blogger Mike H said...

John, the last time I checked, scoring goals was a big part of the game of soccer ;). What pk's tell you is what team was better at finding the net under a very controled situation.

If you would raither watch teams fall to pieces and see sloppy soccer take the day, then that is your opinion, I just don't agree with it.

However, I would love to see them replay the game the next day, but with all the money put into the Cup for TV rights, that will not happen anytime soon.

6:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mike: Any comments on the early yellow card and the penalty kick awarded to France in the first 6 minutes or so of the game? Other than those, the game was well called and Zidane had to be carded for the impulsive mistake.

Also, any thoughts on whether the linesman actually saw the head butt or whether he was influenced by the stadium video replay of the event? Apparently the head ref didn't see the foul but awarded the red card after conferring with a linesman.

The penalty kicks determining the winner would have been the same if the keepers were on the sidelines drinking a beer....none were really getable and the crossbar stopped the other.

7:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think John is right on - PK are to far romoved from the action of the game to award such an important trophy. Should be a play-off the next day or something like that.
Am I the only on that thinks the Italian
goal on Materazzi's header should have been disallowed. Did anyone see him put his hand on the defenders shoulder and not only get an extra inch of elevation for himself but hold down the defender an inch and just get to the ball over the defenders back. That was a foul if you ask me.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Footage is already up covering the Zidane headbutt --

Damn, they're fast.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Josiah said...

It was a pretty spectacular game!

Congrats to Italy who were the better team on the night.

The game was great but was overshadowed by the Zidane headbutt.

If you wanna see more about the world cup or soccer news check out my blog at:

You'll love it! :)

6:19 AM  

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