Thursday, July 06, 2006

Blue Sunday: World Cup update

The Monk was in the last throes of wedding prep, after last obtaining a score check 26 minutes into OT, when he switched on the TV to watch what he expected would be penalty kicks between Italy and Germany. Instead, The Monk caught Italians celebrating on field after notching goal #2 and cementing the Azzurri's place in the Final. All to the good, Monk is half-Italian and cheers on the Azzurri between their please-grant-us-penalty-kick-flops. Better yet, Italy is 0-3 in penalty kick shootouts in the World Cup (the Italians have the dubious distinction of being the only team to be eliminated in three straight Cups [1990-1994-1998] without losing their final game b/c the penalty kick elimination counts as a tie), so winning before PKs was key.

Here are some quick notes and what to watch for in Final on Sunday:

(1) The last World Cup title match that was an all-Europe affair (dangerous word with French and Italians) was 1982 in Spain. Italy 3, West Germany 1. This is the seventh all-Europe final, there's only been one all-Latin America Final, 1930 (the 1950 "Final" doesn't count to The Monk because the Cup winner was the champion of a Final Round round-robin group). Italy has been in five Finals and won three, each of which were all-Europe Finals.

(2) France and Italy met twice in recent years: World Cup 1998 and UEFA European Cup 2000. Many of the French players remain from those teams (the French are considered an old bunch in this tournament). France advanced on penalty kicks in the 1998 World Cup (in France) and beat the Italians in the Euro 2000 title match in a late comeback with an injury-time goal and a sudden-death goal in OT.

(3) The Italians have allowed ZERO goals scored by an opponent in this tournament. The only goal they gave up was the "own goal" that enabled the US to tie Italy 1-1. France has allowed two goals, both legit.

(4) France has never missed a penalty kick (in regulation) in the World Cup. If you watch how Zinedine Zidane blasted home the penalty for the only goal in the France-Portugal match, you'll know why. The Portuguese GK dove the right way, laid out fully and Zidane STILL put it home.

(5) From Monkfriend Anon who knows his soccer better than The Monk, this answer to The Monk's question of whether Sunday's match comes down to midfielders Andrea Pirlo for Italy and Zidane for France: "More like Zidane/[Francesco] Totti and [Patrick] Vieira/[Gennaro] Gattuso, with a little [Thierry] Henry against the Azzuri's back four and [Luca] Toni or [Alessandro] Del Piero against France's. Should be quite a game, though I like Italy's legs better -- the French looked dead against the cheating/lying/diving Portuguese." The Monk would add that he'd take Italian GK Gianluigi Buffon over French 'keeper Fabian Barthez any day of the week and twice on Sundays. That said, however, Barthez is a Brazilian 'keeper who happens to be French -- he's not on anyone's top 20 list of goalkeepers, but he wins championships (1998 World Cup, 2000 Euro).

No comments: