Clearly I was a tad intoxicated when I wrote that last post. Rooting for Germany, France, and England? What? Well, I guess I did root for England yesterday, but that was only because they were playing Portugal, who, out of respect for the Portugal fan sector of the VTK readership, I will try not to bash today (other than to say that Cristiano Ronaldo ('ian-Ron) is a detestable pratt). All in all, it was a pretty dismal weekend for the teams I was supporting. Here's some notes on the matches, followed by the updated power rankings:
Argentina vs. Germany - While the result and the post-match fracus were disappointing, the match was fantastic. Maybe the best of the Cup. It's a shame that this was a quarterfinal match instead of a semi or the Final. You had two of the best in the world battling to a draw for 120 minutes, each notching a spectacular goal along the way, and it had to be decided by a penalty kick shootout. Unfortunately for Argentina, their star keeper (who I have read described as a PK specialist) had to leave the game due to an injury, and his replacement just wasn't up to the challenge put forth by Germany's great keeper, Lehmann. What can I say. It really sucks that a team that played as well as the Argentines did got bounced in such a fashion. But that's the game.
I watched the match with scoutie, duffless, et. al. at PJ Ryan's in Teele Square, which is a great place to watch soccer (I watched all the Quarterfinal matches there, actually). I had my Argentina jersey on and there were about 5 or 6 off us rooting for the Argentines. We sat on one side of the bar, across from the sizeable German contingent that were decked out in jerseys, face paint, hats, flags, horns, etc. Both groups cheered loudly, but it was friendly and I talked to a few of them, shook hands, congratulated them, etc. They left after the match, while we stayed for the second match. A few minutes later, I notice there's a Scorpions song playing. Then another. Then 99 Luftballons. I look over at the bartender and he starts cracking up. They gave him the mixed cd as they were leaving. Damn Germans.
Italy vs. Ukraine - One of these teams is not like the other. Let's face it - the Ukraine just wasn't up to it. They got pounded by Spain, then managed to get out of their group because of the poor quality of the other teams (and they only barely beat Tunisia), and then they get past an overachieving Swiss team via PK shootout. Italy revealed them for the second tier team that they are. There wasn't a moment in this match that I thought that the Ukraine would lose by less than 2 goals.
England vs. Portugal - I think this was the first time I've ever rooted for the English national team. In '02 when the Brits came over to watch the early morning matches, I didn't actively root against them (except against Argentina and Brazil) but that's not the same as actively rooting for them (but I guess you could say that I was actively rooting against Portugal). And so, of course, they blow it as soon as I join their side. Sven insisted on using the 4-5-1 again. Lampard finally got a shot on net, but it was right at the keeper. blah blah blah, then the Rooney Incident.
This kid needs some anger management classes. That was obvious before this game. He just looks like he's going to kill someone. But I've always liked him as a player, even when he jilted Everton for Man U and became a star for England. He's passionate, tough, fast, and incredibly skilled. Leading up to the red card, he had been controlling/protecting the ball impressively against two players on his back. The battle got heated, Carvalho was holding his shirt and using his leg to block Rooney from the ball, Carvalho falls and pulls Rooney down, Rooney gets up and steps on his groin. Intentional? Tough to say. Probably. Didn't look like he "stamped" his nuts, as many are wording it, but it didn't look very accidental either. As a soccer fan I can say that this stuff happens in such a heated battle. As a man, it's absolutely inexcusable. Yellow card? maybe. Though Carvalho definitely should have gotten one for pulling him down by the shirt as well. The ref was right there and it looked like he was just calling a foul. Red card? I don't think so. Then comes The Antichrist, 'ian-Ron, to plead for a card and Rooney pushes him. Yellow card? Unfortunately, probably so. Two possible yellows in a 10 second span equals either a Yellow card or arguably a red card. I haven't heard/read anyone confirm whether he got it for stepping on Carvalho, pushing 'ian-Ron, or both. Regardless, it was an error of youth to allow yourself to be baited into losing your cool that much in a quarterfinal match. You just left your team a man down for the next 60 minutes. 'ian-Ron is trying to do damage control in the British media now, since he has to go back and play there [see comments for update on his future], but you know what kid? We saw that little wink and the snide shush gesture when you came off the field after helping to get Rooney sent off. When they get back to Old Trafford, I hope Rooney stabs 'ian-Ron's pretty boy face like he did to Ribery. Just kidding. I don't know if if was Rooney that stabbed Ribery in the face, but it sure looks like someone did. And I don't really hope that he stabs 'ian-Ron in the face. Black eye might be nice, though [update on Rooney v 'ian-Ronny in comments]. (sorry dewy/cj. I just don't like the way they play.)
France vs. Brazil - The most stunning moment of this match came in the 78th minute when Brazil subbed in Robinho for Kaka. Stunning why? Stunning because I thought Robinho wasn't playing because he was injured. Why would you not play your 2nd or 3rd best player (behind Ronaldinho and Kaka)? Am I the only person who recognized the difference in the way Brasil played with and without Robbie on the pitch. He's match-fit and available and you wait until you're a goal down with 12 minutes left in the match to bring him in. And he had an immediate impact. But there just wasn't enough time for that impact to play out. Would Brazil have won if he had played? I don't know. They definitely looked vulnerable this year, despite flashes of brilliance and wins in all 4 matches. France played great once again. Their defense is tremendous. I still think Barthez is suspect though. It seems as if he's allergic to catching a ball. But he's got decent reaction speed, parrying skills, experience, and confidence. And that might be enough for Les Bleus to Allez. I'm shaving my head ala Zidane for the France - Portugal match.
Current Power Rankings (penalty kicks may advance you in The Cup, but not in the Power Rankings):
lastly, here's a few interesting articles:
- Here is an interesting article on the representation of the power football clubs in this and future World Cups. Chelsea really was everywhere. (also, did anyone else realize that Romario is still playing? I thought he was dead)
- Essien campaigns for Adu to come to Chelsea/Ghana.
- Hope Amid Heartache For Argentina
Au revoir, Selecao.