To the Semis(2)
Yesterday, the games ran true to form. Germany outlasted Argentina on penalties and Italy rolled over the Ukraine. Quick to the breakdown.
It was a bad move to replace the sublime Riquelme in the 70th minute for a defensive replacement. I don’t think Germany would have equalised with Riquelme on the field. The Argentian coach Pekerman (snicker, snicker) said Riquelme looked a little tired. Then Pekerman fell on his sword and resigned. Even if Riquelme couldn’t move at all ala Ronaldo, he needed to stay on the pitch.
Never go to penalties with Germany. They are 4-0 in penalty shoot-outs in the WC. Their kick-takers (Neuville, Ballack, Podolski and Borowski) looked as composed as Jason Bourne in a car chase. And their goalkeeper Lehman has the two most important intangibles needed to save penalties: he’s big and crazy. He covers alot of the net and the Argentian players had no idea which way he’d dive.
Full disclosure. I did not see the first 80 minutes because of a previous committment. Was celebrating Canada Day by playing golf and then having a steak dinner in a hockey rink while listening to the Tragically Hip and Loverboy. I kid you not. But that lead to a weird experience where we watched the end of the Germany game at this golf course in the middle of nowhere, Belgium. And in the tiny, tiny clubhouse the former Belgium Foreign Minister (like Condi Rice) and current EU minister Louis Michel watched it with us while calmly sipping some water and puffing on fat Cuban cigar. There was no security around him, he was joking around with a couple of buddies and was just a nice guy. He’d get my vote. (He’s got the beard).
The 2nd game offered up no surprises as Italy completed their usual trifecta. Won the game, kept a clean sheet and lead in stretcher jobs 3-1. Italy meets Germany on July 4th in the first semifinal. Hope the TV ratings are huge in the US for this game. And now a quick peek at today’s games.
England-Portugal @ 17:00 Central European Time.
Potugal coach Big Phil Scolari goes for the quadruple diss against England. He beat England in the quarterfinal at WC 2002 with Brazil, in the quarters at Euro 2004 with Portugal and then turned down the England coaching job two months ago. Normally my money would be on Big Phil, but Portugal goes limping into the game missing 2 key players. Midfielders Costhina and Deco both received well-deserved red cards in the Netherlands–Portugal debacle. I think England has one great performance in them and deliver today in a 2-0 win. The English are in a frenzy anyway with their team on the verge of the semis and the unreal line-up at Wimbledon today: Agassi vs. Nadal, a Sharpova match and then Murrary (great British hope) vs Roddick. You gotta love sports!!!!
France-Brazil @ 21:00 Central European Time.
The winner of the last 2 WCs meet in a dream match-up. Can an aging France recall the glory of ’98 and defeat the defending champions Brazil? Will the old midfield horses Vieira, Makele and Zidane keep up with the splendid Brazilians Ronaldinho and Kaka? Do Ronaldo and Henry both score? How do the sometimes shaky keepers Barthez and Dida fare? Questions, questions. For no particular reason, this is the most excited I’ve been for a game (outside of the USA). If France plays well, this will be a memorable game.
Enjoy your Saturday and enjoy the games.