All Hail Zizou, King of les Bleus

There is only 1 Zinedine Zidane.  The player of the last 20 years put on an unreal display, even when measured by his own lofty standards, against Brazilon Saturday night.  He stamped his authority on the game a mere 30 seconds into it when he danced around 3 Brazilian players before passing.  His vision, range of passing, ball-control and technical skills controlled the game and continued France’s surprising mastery of Brazil.  Le Bleu has eliminated Brazil in the WC in the quarters in ’86 and ’06 and the final in ’98.  Good thing for Brazil that the French didn’t qualify for ’90 and ’94. 

Suddenly the French, who only 1 week ago needed to score 2 goals against Togo just to advance to the knockout stages, are in the semifinals.  Playing 2 of the more complete games of the tournament they have done the extraordinary and made two white-hot favorites, Spain and Brazil, look ordinary.  Much of their resurgence is due to their thirtysomething core of Thuram, Makelele, Zidane, Vieira and Barthez who all looked good against Brazil. The French newspaper Dimanche Ouest-France summed up their performance perfectly:

“A generation that refuses to give back their jerseys. They will not be stopped. The museum awaits.”

Now it’s time for The Third Leaf (TTL) to turn its gaze from the beauty of the Zidane-led French performance to the tepid Portugal-England game.  It’s no surprise that England lost on penalties, as its what they do best (Euro ’96 and ’04, WC ’90, ’96 and ’06).  English TV pundit Alan Hansen when asked if there is anything England can do to win a penalty shoot-out:  “Yes.  Import 5 Germans.” 

As with many English exits from big tournaments there was an INCIDENT along with penalties.  Rooney’s talent is probably only matched by his temper and his temper won again.  He deserved the red card for the stamp on Carvalho’s nuts and followed that up with a quick shove on his Manchester United teammate Cristiano Ronaldo.  Rooney is only 20 but has to get his anger under control.  He makes Bob Knight look like a kindly grandfather.   

Portugal also deserves blame for the ugliness of the game.  They wasted an 11-10 advantage for 60 minutes, playing part of that time without a striker.  Not exactly offensive-minded soccer and somehow England looked more likely to score than the Portuguese.  Although its hard to score when trying to out-dive the Italians, which Portugalmanaged to do.  The finger of shame is pointed directly at Figo, Maniche and Ronaldo whose uniforms probably need some extra scrubbing to get out all the grasstains.  Boo. 

Europe celebrates as all 4 semifinal teams are from the continent for the first time since ’82.  Germany-Italy and Portugal-France look to be good on paper, but TTL will break these down tomorrow.  Here’s hoping the WC final is not Portugal-Italy.  Could not stand all the rolling, grabbing, diving and whining.  And that’s just the Portuguese. 

Enjoy your holidays. 

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