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World Cup Diary

LITTLE BIG HORNIES

GAME 56, ROUND OF 16, JUNE 27, 2006 --HANOVER
SPAIN 1, FRANCE 3
FINAL

Yes... I'm back. Predictions? How about our first 3-2 match of this tournament? The edge to... Spain.

6... Odd call by the refs, for being so just: The line-judges overruled the principal ref, or vice versal, when a corner was awarded to Spain, then taken back to a goal kick after the refs conferred. Not bad. We should see more of those parlays. We should also see a truer timing of these games. Letting the clock run at will is insane, considering how easily the players use it up--no matter how much the "injury time" clock is extended. It's never nearly as much as the time wasted on field, and the players know it. Meanwhile, a Zidane corner, but no production.

Louis XIV's latter-day nemeses.

9... Free kick Spain well struck, just past the bloviating Barthez and his goal. Still difficult to decide who's more on the ball in this match: Spain is technically more able so far, France certainly not the affable, laid-back team we've seen in previous matches.

12... Oh, come the hell on with these players' goddamn complaints about conditions. They're on a stage with 1 or 2 billion viewers per game. That earns us a break from their bitching and moaning no matter how difficult the conditions. Just get out there and play. And its Germany we're talking about, damp, humid but by-no-means scorching Germany. Zidane just missed a breakaway on yet another off-side call that should be bitched and moaned about.

16... Neither team finding the box until this surprising French attack, a cross into the box bached off sloppily by a Spaniard, right to Zidane, who manages only a flopping kick against a defender. The corner is not productive. It's pretty steady: French attack, Spanish attack, French attack, but the stuff never really gets past the 20-yard line. Both teams' defenses are managing well.

21... Spain not yet displaying the kind of overwhelming momentum they did in previous matches. Could France, this underperforming team of have-beens, be their match? Possessions favor Spain, substantive possessions favor France: more deep throw-ins, more corners produced.

23... Oh1 A perfect Zidane switch to the far side deep, a good cross by Henry into the box, but one, then two French strikers go sliding on the grass, missing the ball by quite a bit but for a pointless touch: could they have been that far behind the well constructed 1-2 between Zidane & Henry?

Once again, the exciting Trezeguet is on the French bench.

PENALTY AGAINST FRANCE!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL SPAIN, GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL VILLA

It was an obvious foul, intentional or not, and a well-struck penalty that was entirely out of reach of Barthez, low and just inside the post. Spain hasn't given up the ball since, much, except for an attempted French breakaway that raised the off-side flag.

All right. Mariano Pernia is the first to start the acting and whining clinics.

37... Spain happy to play this way: no true pressure from France, just the usual midfield scrambles for turn-overs; France keeps getting trapped off-side, Spain pressing mildly for its own way back past Barthze, but not that intensely. Both sides look as if they're holding back something. Free Kick France from 30 out. A curling ball right into the praying (and preying) hands of Iker Casillas, the Eisenhower-verbed Spanish keeper.

41...It would be mildly Cinderellish if France pulled off this ganme... and GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL FRANCE! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RIBERY! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL RIVERY! UNE BEAUTE!

Viera's Spain-straddled touch to Ribery breaking free of the Spanish defenders, he swerved his way around the keeper with all the time and green he needed, never hesitated, never overplayed, then left-side-kicked the ball into the open goal, two Soaniards running behind it but too late. Beautiful goal, and so timely. Well deserved too: Ribery has been playing his heart out.

44... Now we have the reffific intensity expected of a France-Spain match.

Half-time...

 

Half-Time Perspectives...

This game features Thierry Henry and Spanish coach Luis Aragone. This is from Football Musings, from a couple of years back, but still worth the comment:

Spain coach Luis Aragones should be sacked from his position by Spain's Football Federation and dealt with by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) after his so-called "motivational comment" made to Arsenal and Spain forward Jose Antonio Reyes in a training session. He used the term "black shit" to describe French opponent and club teammate Thierry Henry at a training session during the week which television audio recorded. Anti-racist football supporters, players, officials, and others involved in what is supposed to be the world game have been trying hard for years to campaign against racism and football. In Britain, the "Let's kick racism out of football" campaign has worked hard to manage "a widespread acceptance throughout the game in Britain that abuse of this kind is unacceptable at any level." However, it is still all too common to hear supporters shout racist abuse from behind the fence. Aragones' comment only serves to weaken such campaigns. Racism is a disgusting illness in society, and for this reason, Aragones should not be coaching Spain. After all, it is not the fault of the individual that they are born to certain people, plus it does not serve any disadvantage; every person, of whatever colour, are one and the same -- human beings. An example of such racism should be made. He should not receive a mere "slap on the wrist". "I am not a racist," Aragones told Spanish newspaper Marca: "I consider myself a citizen of the world and I have many black friends." He continued: "I don't think anyone takes these comments seriously because I never intended to insult or disrespect anyone. I had no intention to hurt anybody." No, Mr. Aragones, you are a racist, as much as it hurts to write that. The non-racist does not need to declare that they have black friends, nor declare that their comments were never meant to harm anyone. They do themselves justice by never having to say those things to defend themselves. Rather, they prove that they are not racists by the way they treat other human beings. A mere apology from Luis Aragones is not good enough. An apology does not show a change in thought; only time and experience can change that. There is no excuse for racism in any situation. He is now a proven racist, despite his insistence that he was only using the comment as a motivational tool and is thus not a racist. For this reason, he should be sacked from his position as national coach of Spain. UEFA should take whatever action they can under the laws of the game in the meantime.

Second half...

Off we go...

47... Pauvre Monsieur Henry: the off-side flag is flogging him like an Inquisitor's whip on the back of a Playboy Channel subscriber.

50... Spain really do not look like that scoring machine we've seen in its previous games, but we saw that downshift in its very last game, didn't we? Did Spain peak too soon?

52... They're really battling now: Florent Malouda with a terrific chance for France, a shot lobbed over the defense but saved, then Spain attacking and being rejected, France again forcing a corner after a rushing attack, preserving possession, forcing Spain turnovers when Spain get the ball... and a very bad clear from Barthez, after receiving the ball from a defender. David Villa is leaving the field. An odd decision. Maybe not so odd, considering his replacement: The fiercely one-named Joaquin, and a terrific goal-scorer.

Meanwhile, two minutes lost to no playing.

Considering the way this world cup has been played, the next goal may be the last, should it come in this match: sides have been shutting down, reducing the game to a sham of time-wasting and play-acting, destroying any possibility of rythm and goals.

59... FRANCE WITH ANOTHER great lost opportunity, Zidane three yards from goal, a good cross from someone or other, but a Spanish foot intercepting, desperately, for the skillful clear: then another France shot by Ribery, but way off target. Spain also with an attack inside the box and a clear not dissimilar from the one the French suffered in their last rush on goal.

65... Allons allons les bleus (les blancs), un peu plus d'efforts...

I think George Vecsey was right in the Times this morning. These "men" are sissies. They're destroying the game with their dives and play-acting and boo-boos every time someone clips their feathers. Spain with an excellent corner (after what looked like a near-own-goal by France), but cleared de justesse.

Could France be playing it smart? Not a single substitution 72 minutes into the game. Maybe the coach sensed a draw after 90 minutes. Foolish speculation: at this point not having Trezeguet in there, and keeping Zidane, who has not quite been more than a shadow of his great past, still in there, seems wrong-headed. Luis Aragones is shooting off his mouth from the sidelines now, enough to provoke an intervention by the ref, who told him: "Sit, Luis, sit."

77... Where is Spain's Fernando Torres? On the field, but not on the ball. A Spain free kick from the 30, headed off for a Spain corner. And another pathetic clear by Barthez, the ball bounced back into the penalty area, Spain took it over and only lost it because a Spanish player outdid Barthez in pathetic play-acting, diving on top of the ball to draw a French free kick. But Spain recovers. A duel between Joaqui and a French defender, Joaquin wins, swerves into the box, SHOOTS! and gets the side of the netting.

81... Ribery at the edge of the box winning his own duel with a defender, a superb pass to Sidney Govou who shoots from 20, but well above the bar.

83... Zidane with one of his patented free kicks, but lofted slowly into the area for....GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL PATRICK VIEIRA! FRANCE 2-1 ON A HEADER FROM THE ZIDANE CROSS...

86... Spain now playing for total possession and men forward... but France are also looking for the ball. The impossible is here: a France win over a tournament favorite? Good news for Brazil, whowant France, an easier side to beat but more to the point: a side they want payback against, since their 3-0 drubbing in Paris eight years ago. Will Spain vamoos so easily? Now the French with their stupid yellows and time-wasters... and substitutions: Thierry Henry is out, Sylvain Wiltord is in. Free kick Spain... a curl good for a head BUT BARTHEZ SLAMS IT OFF... Spain recovers, rezones into the box, corner Spain. Cleared. Another corner... a scramble... Barthez takes over.

90... The crying clearning game for France, the desperation game for Spain. I have to say: I like this outcome if it holds. My heart is still with France in the end. But 3 minutes of injury time. And Spain on the ball... Zidane earning himself a stupid, stupid jersey-tugging yellow. what a GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ! WHAT A GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ZIDANE ZIDANE ZIDANE!!

What a superb goal, what skill, a break from midfield, a perfect pass to Zidane at the far edge of the box, a dribble around a defender, a shot, a goal! what a wonderful end to a good match. Zidane, back after all.

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