Sunday is the big day. I’m unlikely ever to watch as much of any future World Cup as the combination of the new daughter and Sun’s summer pause made possible this time.

First, in the last soccer fragment I asked for a pointer to good writing, and got some, but there are a bunch more in the New York Times World Cup Blog.

I didn’t find much to write about France-Portugal. I was unabashedly pro-France; their masterly disposals of Spain and Brazil aside, Portugal are just not very likeable. Still, nobody would call it a brilliant game; the better team won fairly, if perhaps with little genius.

The Last Act · The bookmakers don’t have a clear favorite, but the journos lean to supporting Italy. I’m with the bookies; the defeat of Germany was magnificent, but if you look at the whole playdown, I’d say France had a tougher path to the final.

I find that emotionally I’m more drawn to France, if only on grounds of physiognomy. Which is to say, the Italians look like a bunch of movie stars, and the French, um, don’t. If I were out walking in the wrong part of Marseilles and saw Zidane, Ribery, and Vieira coming along the sidewalk toward me, I’d find a reason to cross the street. And Henry has a standup comic’s face. Speaking as one with a grizzled and at best ordinary countenance, I can relate to those guys.

Also, speaking as one who is no longer young, I note with pleasure that if you look at the teams’ midfield generals, Totti and Zidane, and total up the years younger their losing opponents’ midfielders were, you get a pretty big number.

As for the game itself? I don’t think Italy has any surprises to offer, we’ve seen what they can do. For les Bleus, Barthez could suddenly go weird and freeze up and nobody would be surprised. Henry hasn’t played up to potential; if they figure out how to unleash him, he might be the one man in the world who can blow a hole in the armor-plate around the Italian goal. Domenech might even go crazy and put Trezeguet in, and he might be so mad at having been benched that he scores three goals just to make a point.

It should be close. But then Brazil, Argentina, or Germany should have won the Cup.


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July 08, 2006
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