Hot Topics

Friday, July 07, 2006

World Cup Diary - Day Twenty Nine

Down now to the last two and what a contrast in the two semi-finals. Italy and Germany put on an entertaining display in which Italy deserved their victory. France V Portugal was a different kettle of fish.

Once again the Portuguese played the game in an unsportsmanlike manner diving and appealing over every decision. Two incidents stood out to me in particular. First was Ronaldo’s flying leap at the slightest contact in the penalty area that nearly broke both long and high jump records simultaneously while scoring a perfect 10 too. Then there was Pauletta shouting and screaming at the referee following a team mate being tripped by a blade of grass, there certainly was no contact from a French player. In my opinion the ref had numerous opportunities to show the yellow card for dives and didn’t take them. The sooner officials do take such action the sooner such blatant cheating will disappear from the game. If it means they send off the odd player when maybe they didn’t dive, then perhaps that is the price we pay for a more honest and sporting game. Neither team deserved to win the game with little to shout about from France or Portugal. Portugal perhaps looked more likely to create something but their play in the last third was poor. Ronaldo was perhaps their best player but deserved his boo’s and his theatrics and other antics certainly take the shine of a very talented young player.

If Italy and France play at the same level on Sunday Italy will win the World Cup and over the whole tournament perhaps deserve it a bit more than France, though neither team could be called great.

Perhaps that has been the problem with this tournament. Both Spain and Argentina looked immense in the group stages but lacklustre performances in the knockout stages saw earlier than anticipated exits for both. England and Brazil on the other hand never got out of first gear falling at the last eight. No team has shone like in previous years with the vast array of individual talent on the whole failing to play at their best.

Finally my team of the tournament (I would post this after the World Cup but as I go on holiday the day of the final, now seems a better time to do it, after all FIFA have just announced theirs).

In goal, Jens Lehman. This was a close call between Lehman and Portugal’s Ricardo. Both have commanded their area’s well and dominated the goal mouth with Lehman for me just edging things.

For the defence, I feel while units have for the most part been fairly solid only a small number stood out above others. First from Italy both Zambrotta and Cannavaro have been superb and stood strong at the back while Zambrotta in particular has also been strong going forward. I also gave Materazzi of Italy some consideration (is he really the same player who donned an Everton shirt a few years ago?) but give the other centre back slot to Senderos of Switzerland. His tournament was cut short due to injury, but from what I saw he played superbly and was a large part of Switzerland’s success in the group stages. Making up the back four is left back Lahm of Germany. Few fullbacks have looked great this tournament, Lahm being one of the few exceptions. He opened the tournament with an amazing goal and continued to provide an attacking option for Germany down the left while defended resolutely.

The midfield was a little bit tougher to decide upon with a number of players probably deserving a spot. First up is Zinedine Zidane, who despite his age has turned back the years in the latter stages proving he is still one of the most skilful players in world football even if his fitness isn’t that great. Next, Maniche of Portugal. Instrumental in the centre of Portugal’s midfield and involved in much of their attacking play. I also gave consideration to Figo and Ronaldo of Portugal but Figo’s inability to last longer than 65 minutes and both players gamesmanship tarnish their undeniable skill. More worthy of a spot was Rosicky of the Czech Republic who looks as though he will be a top signing for Arsenal next season. Finally I picked Riquelme of Argentina. In the group games Argentina were very impressive and Riquelme was a big part of than.

Finally the two forwards and first up is Klose of Germany. As things stand he tops the scoring tables and has been part of a great partnership up front for Germany. His partner in crime, Podolski was very close to joining him but despite some great play and three goals his sharpness in front of goal has let him down a few times and he loses out to Saviola of Argentina, who like Riquelme was at time awe inspiring in the early stages.

So a quick re-cap of the team, Lehman in goal, Zambrotta at right back with Lahm at left and Senderos and Cannavaro in the heart of the defence. In midfield Zidane, Maniche, Riquelme and Rosicky with Klose and Saviola up front.

No comments: