Tuesday, July 04, 2006

World Cup Blues

The joy is gone. My heart was with two teams in this tournament: the United States and Germany. The US for obvious reasons, and Germany because I actually have ties there having lived there for three years as a kid. The US was an utter disappointment this Cup. Yes, they played in perhaps the true "group of death" with Czech Republic, Italy and Ghana, so advancing was a difficult task indeed. The dramatic, gutsy effort against Italy aside, their lackluster play in the Czech Republic game and inability to play with any sense of urgency against Ghana, along with their offensive ineptitude (4 shots on frame in 3 games!) left a bitter taste in the mouths of many US soccer fans. Sure, players are to blame, and there is plenty of blame to go around (where were Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, Kasey Keller and Claudio Reyna this tournament), but one has to wonder if the time has come for the most successful coach in US history (Bruce Arena) to step aside. Perhaps he has taken the national program as far as he can. The early exit by a talented but underachieving left my heart with one team: Germany. After a decisive victory against Sweden and a penalty kick thriller with Argentina, Germany matched up today with Italy, a team that they have never beaten in World Cup play. I need to say this: I loathe Italy. I'm sick of hearing about the match-fixing scandal in Italy, one which has the potential to implicate several Italian national team players. But more than this, I am weary of watching Italian players fall to the ground, take dives, and whine and complain about everything that happens on the pitch. Please, anyone but Italy, win the Cup! The match was great. It was exciting, play moved up and down the pitch. There were exciting shots on frame and good saves by the keepers. The referee was mostly invisible and called a good match. He let them play, but kept the game under control (although, in my opinion, he could have called the game a little tighter). The game was scoreless for 90 minutes. In the first 2 min of OT Italy had two shots hit the crossbar. Italy had better chances and it finally caught up with the German team. In the 119 minute Italy scored. No mistake by Germany. Just a great play by the Italian team. As Germany pushed up to try and equalize in the final minute Italy gained possession, countered and scored as time ended. Crushing defeat but an excellent game. A far cry from the performance of the US during this tournament. And amazingly, the one game the US got a result from was against an Italian team that will play in the finals against the Portugal/France winner. I don't care for France, although Zidane is a futbol genius, but it's hard to root for Portugal after their dirty play against Holland and watching their star, Cristian Ronaldo, rat out his Manchester United teammate Wayne Rooney in their quarterfinal match, leading to Rooney being shown a red card (which he admittedly deserved, but it didn't appear the referee saw the infraction) and being sent off, leaving England to play 10 on 11 for 60+ minutes. So, I suppose I'll watch the remaining games I can, but it will be bittersweet because there is no one left to root for.


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