March Germany, march (to the Final)
There is no better way to celebrate the 4th of July then beers, BBQ and the WC. A Happy 4th to everyone stateside. Without further ado, here is the breakdown.
Germany-Italy @ 21:00 Central European Time
The trend is your friend: Italy has never lost to Germany in the WC. Germany has never lost an international match in Dortmund, site of today’s game.
This game would make a great final: It was in ’82 with the Azzurri beating Germany 3-1.
Torsten Frings, menace to society: German midfielder is banned from semifinal for slapping Argentinian player in post-match melee on Friday. To add more spice, Italian Soccer Federation supposedly supplied the video that led to Fring’s suspension. Huge loss to Germany, because Frings was playing excellent soccer.
Duetchsland, Duetchsland!!: Germany will enjoy ridiculous homefield advantage with literally an entire nation stopping to cheer on the Nationalmannschaft.
Klinsmann the talismann: German coach claims he has combined solid German work ethic with Californian positivity to produce overachieving side.
TTL has no clue what that means but gives a hearty endorsement for USA soccer to sign Klinsmann as next national coach.
Friendly affair: Yes, the Italians did decimate the Germans 4-1 in an international friendly (exhibition) in Florence in March. About as meaningful as NFL preseason game is to a Conference Championship game.
12 year itch: Italians have progressed to WC final in ’70, ’82 and ’94. Is ’06 next?
On form: Both sides are playing well with Germany having dispatched Argentina on penalties in last game. Italy won the toughest group, yet faced easier opposition (Australia, Ukraine) in knockout rounds.
Keeperman: German Lehmann is on a roll and great on penalties but Buffon is best in the world. Edge: Italy.
Defense, defense: Italian strength even without injured Nesta. Germany has looked shaky but hasn’t conceded many goals. Italy has not been scored on (only own goal vs USA). Edge: Italy.
Midfield wanderers: Suspension of Frings hurts Germany. Schweinsteiger has to be an influence on the game from the wing. Both Ballack and Totti capable of producing magic, but Ballack is more consistent. Hard man Gattuso will try to slow Ballack down. Subs could be key. Edge: Germany
Attack, attack: German strikers Klose and Podolski playing excellent. Linking up play, holding the ball and finishing ruthlessly. Italian strikers have been iffy although Toni scored 2 against Ukraine. Edge: Germany
Intangibility: Both teams sincerely believe the WC is their destiny. Both are unified and saying all the right things. Both are littered with seasoned professionals who should embrace this big stage. Obviously, the Germans have a huge homefield advantage but the Italians are great on the road. Edge: Even
TTL allegiance: I admit to a strange sensation of cheering for Germany during this WC. This seems to have spread to several readers although no one can quite figure out why. If you can’t fight it might as well give in. I think the Germans take it 2-1. C’mon Germany. Enjoy the holiday and the games.