Saturday, July 08, 2006

Excited and cautiously excited 

Before I leave work (yay Saturday!) I do want to mention a couple things I don't find bland.

The first is, of course, the big match tomorrow. For all the marbles, Italy v France. I like the Italians (both as the team I'm rooting for and my pick to win). It looks a pretty even matchup on paper -- far closer than Italy/Germany, I'd say. Both teams have looked strong on defense, though I give the edge to Italy (again, no one has scored on them). The Italians also enjoy a superior advantage at GK with Buffon perhaps being the best in the world. Meanwhile, France have to hope against hope that Barthez doesn't committ a series of blunders and become the irrational horse's ass he so often is.

The key to the game is Zidane. The master has lifted France on his shoulders the last two matches and has elevated the play of everyone around him. Ribery should have been a shoe-in for first XI of the tournament and, of course, we all know what Henry can do. He's easily the best striker Italy will have faced in this tournament. In spite of this, I believe that Pirlo and Gattuso will anchor a strong possession game for the Italians, similiar to their match against Germany, thus limiting the Frogs' chances. Toni and Gilardino are no slouches up front and the collective age of France is about 5,300 years old. What it basically comes down to is that Italy are deeper and more balanced as a squad.

All these things taken into account, I'm taking Italy to win their fourth World Cup, 1-0. I'd love to get some revenge for Euro 2000 and WC '98.

Cautiously excited
Look, I'm busting just thinking about South Africa hosting the World Cup in 2010, but I know that it'd be foolish to think that, as the slogan goes, "one game changes everything." Amid all the revelry and happiness yesterday in Berlin, where the torch was passed on to S.A. to host the 2010 edition, were some very real concerns about infrastructure. Thabo Mbeki, shmuck that he is, would have you believe that everything is rosey and that the event will go off without a hitch.

I'm a bit more of a realist. So is Grahame Jones of the LA Times who wrote an excellent, scathing piece on why the next World Cup has disaster written all over it and how the wool is being pulled over our collective eyes. I'd say it's a must-read.

My opinion on the matter? Well, as I said, I tend to agree with Jones. However, staging the event would do wonders for the economy in S.A. What the blundering government does with that money is a totally separate issue. If that windfall of cash can be translated into education and hospitals, it will be worth it and all the better for South Africa. I'm pessimistic that it will play out that way. On several levels, they are not fit to host in four years time. Plus our team sucks balls, right now. Seriously. They're so bad. If it weren't for the rampant AIDS, crime, poverty, and corruption in South Africa, the soccer team would be declared a national disaster. I'm not kidding.

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