Woohoo! France, Italy, it’s gonna be a blue Sunday night! I am happy as the last part of the World Cup 2006 plot is moving along the way I liked it to be.
Germany 0 – Italy 2
Initially thought of watching this ITV broadcasted match at the Bear & went to ask BR whether he’s going too, an hour before the match kicked off. BR was going to entertain another friend for dinner at his pad that evening but invited me to watch the match at his place via his laptop equipped with a new TV card. I wasn’t able to join the dinner though as the menu was non-Halal. No issues on that as I had a late lunch anyhow.
I kind off expected the game to be a battle of midfield supremacy but with some intensity as both teams I expect would want to avoid extra time play or even the dreaded lottery-like penalty shootout. The match was, as BBC puts it, absorbing. Both teams had good defenses, Germany with the reassuring Jens Lehmann between the stick & the Azzurri with their famed back 4 marshaled by Fabio Cannavaro. That said, it doesn’t mean that both teams did not attacked each other. There were a number of attacks & counter attack but none produced any goals as both teams were equally cautious of not opening up their defense during a forward run. Ball possession was basically 50-50.
The stalemate between the 2 teams threatened to lead to the dreaded penalty shootout as the clock ticks through extra time. Klinsmann & Lippi, both made substitutions that were indicative that neither wanted to end the extra 30 minutes with a draw (unlike Sven & that Jamie Carragher, penalty taker substitution). This is in despite of the Herr Lehmann’s proven ability in saving some penalties for the Germans.
Just as it was against Australia, the Azzuri left it late to break their opposition’s heart. This time, it was via a set piece where an unmarked defender Fabio Grosso curled in an Andrea Pirlo pass past Lehmann. With a minute of extra time to go, the Germans went for broke trying to conjure up an equalizer only to be caught on the break by the Italians. Alessandro Del Piero chipped the ball into the net to bury any hope of a Germany comeback.
Portugal 0 – France 1
I guess after 2 great performances against Spain & Brazil, the rather senior Les Bleus squad didn’t have enough time to recover their energy. As such, the performance of Zinedine Zidane & the French Legion this time around was less engaging than their previous 2. Portugal, with Deco & Constinha back from suspension, got off to a lively start. France gradually took control of the 1st half with more attacks on the Portuguese goal. One of the attacks by Thierry Henry led to Ricardo Carvalho (yup, the Chelsea man who got his nuts stepped on by Rooney’s studs) fouling the Arsenal captain in the box, Zizou calmly slotted in the ensuing penalty kick past Ricardo. I was biting my fingers at that moment recalling this goalkeeper’s excellent saves against the English. In fact, he guessed correctly this time too & almost saved Zizou’s shot.
In the 2nd half of the match, the French appear to be playing deep i.e. defend more & there were few forays into the opponents half. The Portuguese were attacking more with Figo & Cristiano Ronaldo switching flanks often in an attempt to get through a Les Bleus defend made up of individuals who all just won the league titles with their various clubs. Ronaldo, already facing an uncertain future at ManUre for his role in getting Rooney sent off, was roundly booed by the English fans in the stands & their French counterpart. I gotta admit that he has strength in character as the jibes only seem to make him play better. It’s just sad that a person of his talent still has to resort to diving & other theatrics in order to get a favourable decision from the referee. The Protuguese never got their equalizer & France confirmed that it’ll be an all blue final.
I have not been at ease with the choice of Fabien Barthez as the goalkeeper. I thought I was wrong in my thoughts until his antics in this match confirmed that butterfingers Barthez from the ManUre days is alive & well. His volleyball save of a shot on goal & a goal throw that ended in the opponents possession almost made me skip a heartbeat. If ever there was a kink in Les Bleus’ armour, it’s him. Having said that, I’ve not actually seen the other 2 French goalkeepers in action before. Hmm, better the devil you know than the 1 you don’t, eh.
Since there’s no way for both teams to be decked out in blue, the honour of wearing their home colours goes to the Azzuri, as the winner from the 1st game will be deemed as the home team in the final match. Les Bleus will be in their away white strip.
To be continued…
Till later, live long & prosper.