Sunday, July 09, 2006
A Final for the Ages
What a final! Two evenly matched teams gave the world a show, and perhaps the better team didn’t win (after all I am partial to France, my pre-World Cup pick to win the title) but the real winner was the game of Soccer/Football. After three consecutive sub par World Cup finals, this game lived up to the billing. The Azzurri claimed the title, but from my perspective France was the team of the World Cup using incredible depth and veteran leadership to overcome the odds and beat the overwhelming pre tournament favorite, Brazil, and the best team in group play, Spain.
Italy’s Marcello Lippi used all of the experience he gained coaching at the highest level of club football and led his nation to its first world title since Paulo Rossi’s great team in 1982. Italy got substantial contributions from everyone in their starting eleven and unlike England the Azzurri actually have players that can finish their chances.
I am disappointed that FIFA continues to use penalty kicks to determine the world champion. In a final, even if the majority of players are dead tired we should play until a golden goal is scored (after the 30 minute extra time is completed.) With tired players comes more space and ultimately more good scoring opportunities.
Since this match was a draw after full time I am going to award two men of the match, one for each side.
For Italy, the World Champions Fabio Cannavaro who shut down Thierry Henry and the France attack in the final third all night long.
For France, Florent Malouda was dangerous all game long on the left flank. He drew a penalty, almost drew a second penalty and created countless scoring chances for the French, only to have Cannavaro and Buffon rise to the occasion and send the game to penalty kicks.
COMING LATER: GRADING ABC AND ESPN’S WORLD CUP COVERAGE