Friday, June 30, 2006
Luca Toni for Italy (vs Ukraine), 30th June 2006
I have no idea what kind of brainstorm came over Argentina's coach this afternoon (Riquelme and Crespo off but Messi and Saviola overlooked in place of Cambiasso and Cruz?? Really??)... but I think Germany thoroughly deserved to go through. Argentina had looked by far the most impressive side in the group stages, but had struggled against the Mexicans, and looked short of ambition this evening. Their bad-tempered exit on penalties just about summed up their day.
Mind you, the hosts may be picking up momentum as the tournament progresses, but they don't really look that good do they? Frail at the back and a bit lightweight up front? Klose has scored goals, sure... but against a really decent defence? I reckon Italy will keep them out.
As for Italy... well. It was a pretty un-Italian performance in that they won by 3-0, and therefore scored two more goals than they strictly needed to progress. When I walked into the pub after 10 minutes and Italy were already 1-0 up, I did rather fear that they would be happy to sit back on that. They're a frustrating side to watch: they have so much individual talent, but they often seem content to do no more than they have to in a game. Today they played pretty well. I fancy them to beat Germany, and I think they have an excellent chance in the final itself. Totti is one of my favourite players (Roma are my Italian team), but he's never really performed in a major tournament. I was in Rome a few years ago, and it's amazing how popular he is there: he's Roman born, has a thick Roman accent, plays for Roma and has a tattoo of a Roman Centurion on his arm. They really love him there, and you can see why he might be reluctant to ever move clubs. Most of the really big Italian clubs are from the North of the country, and they tend to mock Totti for his Roman accent - it makes him sound a bit like a country bumpkin. To his eternal credit, rather than get offended by this, Francesco Totti has published a book of jokes about himself being stupid. I somehow can't imagine David Beckham doing the same thing about himself (and Totti has twice Beckham's talent). Totti is currently recovering from a nasty broken leg, and doesn't seem quite fit yet... but hopefully he'll do something magic before the end of the Tournament.
As for tomorrow.... well, France v Brazil is an intriguing game. Neither team has played particularly well so far, but France look like they may finally be coming into some form. Forget score predictions, if Zidane lays on a scoring pass for Thierry Henry tomorrow, then the French will definitely win. It hasn't happened in more than 50 internationals, but it could happen tomorrow, right?
Hmmmmm. I think we could beat Portugal... but it's going to be a rollercoaster, isn't it? Whatever the result, it's bound to be emotional.
Hands up who picked a Brazil v Argentina final then?