Well, that was quite a show. Hey, LazyWeb, where’s the deep, erudite, funny, World Cup commentary to be found? Who’s the Roger Angell of soccer? The best I’ve found is Mondial 2006, but something in my own language would be nice. As for the game: Cannavaro Cannavaro Cannavaro, what else is there to say? [Update: Oscar Merida writes to point at Soccer Blogs, an aggregation with some good stuff, while Marc Lacoste points to les cahiers du football (en français, obviously).]
Deutschland · The Germans had grace and power and style and class and it’s sad to see them go, even though Italy was the better team on the day. You had to love Klinsmann on the sidelines, exploding all those clichés about German reserve; at one point I thought he’d literally tear his hair. And Ballack commanding the midfield, mostly winning the duel with Totti; now we won’t get to see how he does against Zidane. And those around-the-box passing sequences, no other team comes close.
But they couldn’t score from outside, and they couldn’t get a scorer loose inside either.
Half Right · I predicted the Italians could do this, (correctly) pointing out the flawless defense and (incorrectly) suggesting that they’d win by pouncing on an error. They had four great scoring chances and converted two; all four were the result of high-speed on-the-run offensive creativity. Which is to say, they beat a team that really didn’t make any big mistakes.
Cannavaro · Some idiot over at the FIFA site named Pirlo as Man of the Match, and yeah, he did create the winning goal after all, but Cannavaro won the game. He stopped Klose and he stopped Ballack and he stopped Podolski and he stopped Odonkor and he stopped Schneider and he stopped Schweinsteiger, most of them more than once. Buffon was sharp but didn’t need to be great, and the Italian defensive machine ran smooth and cool and impermeable, but Cannavaro was the knife in Germany’s heart.
Parting Shots · Item: Totti was only effective in the first half; has some combination of age and injury caught up with him? I was surprised they left him in, the Italian bench is deep; but maybe they were thinking it’d go to penalties, you’d want him then. Item: Nobody’s set pieces worked worth a damn; getting a corner or a free kick was worth approximately nothing in this game. Item: Know who Benito Archundia is? I didn’t think so. He was the referee, and the fact that you don’t remember him is a high compliment. I didn’t see a single blown call, and he was stingy with the cards too, so Italy will have their best team there for the final. That said, both teams deserve credit for keeping it reasonably clean, although there were (as always) some egregious dives.
Wasn’t it nice to see Del Piero get another notch on his belt?
That’s what a soccer game ought to be like.