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World Cup Diary

LA FINALE

GAME 64, FINAL, JULY 9, 2006 --BERLIN
ITALY 1, FRANCE 1
ITALY WIN ON PENALTY KICKS, 5-3


Warning: we are unabashed French fans here, even if Les Bleus are underdogs in this battle. Bookies would have us take Italy 2-0. We're going to go with our heart and say France 3-2, even though the days when French could score three goals in a football match are almost a decade away, and this is, after all, a team on social security's take. The two Italian goals must be scored by Luca Toni, our one and only Italian god, but all for naught: This has to be France's day. Besides, we have France's chief cheering section by our side, pictured below; they look concerned. They look anxious. They look like two girls and a little god lost in some Floriddian parking lot (which they are). Nevertheless, they're the match's First American cherring section.

Les Bleus en Floride

So, off we go. (And Robert, keep your eyes on the road).

Not one minute in and Henry is down and asking for a stretcher. Why couldn;t it be Chirac, who's being his useless self in the stands? Henry is up, he's getting a sponge bath from his male nurse, he's being asked to count up to two, which is all he needs: his two legs. He may have a concussion. His head snapped when he collided with Italy's Fabio Cannavaro. He looks dazed. He's on the sidelines.

4... Henry is back.

5... Gallas a terrible pass back from his end that he goves away for an Italian attack, but a nasty cynical foul by Gianluca Zambrotta earns him a yellow and stops the Italian momentum.

PENALTY FOR FRANCE!

GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL FRANCE! GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ZIDANE! AND AS BARELY AS THE DIVE BY FLORENT MALOUDA DESERVED THE PENALTY.

Florent Malouda was making a run from the left side of the box, he was double-teamed but barely even grazed by two Italian attackers. His dive was Olympic-quality (Hollywood agents are already calling his mistresses), but he won the penalty, and Zidane shot it, lobbed it rather, it hit the crossbar and bounced just inside the line for the 1-0 lead. Not the best way to take the lead, neither honest nor beautiful, but France (and the rest of us) will take it. Now let's see real goals.

11... Despite the goal the Henry near-concussion and the Zidane semi-goal has thrown this game's potential pace into an uncertaain give-and-go of nervousness and resentmnet that's translating, on the field, into a series of nasty fouls. Latest victims: France's Sagnol and Fabio Grosso, which earns Sagnol a yellow.

12... The French defense looks a bit in disarray, the Italian offense looks more willing than usual: with a 1-0 lead for France, that's to be expected.

13... Italy Free Kick outside the box, near side. Pirlo on the ball... Thuram rockets it out for a corner (a header). Italy maintaining possession, playing its traditional game of patience and, this year, rough-necking, but a lousy turn-over for a Barthez goal kick.

16... Italy's control game superior to Frances--Sagnol with a pass to nowhere down the wing--but Italy are not finding their open man anywhere near the box: the French defense may have looked shaky, but it's doing the job in that ugly way that Barthez, in spite all, does the job. Italy again on the ball...

19.......GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAL ITALY! MARCO MATERAZZI TAKES A CORNER AND SOARS AS HIGH AS THE CZECH JAN KOLLER TO BEAT ABSOLUTELY EVERYONE FOR A HEADER THAT MADE BARTHEZ LOOK EVERY INCH THE SHAKY KEEPER HE CAN BE.

24... Italy with the momentum and the ball: the best France have managed since they scored was a punch through the Italian wall by Henry that ended, as so often in this World Cup, with an off-side flag. Zidane, taking a dive? That's what it looked like, but the audience here says, "Zidane doesn't dive."

25... Henry and Ribery now with a much better one-two down the far wing, Ribery's attempted cross ending against an Italian boot for an out-ball that France lost after the throw-in.

28... The game is lacking a nice flow even if the attacks have not been entirely lacking. Toti taking a free kick some 30 yards out, head on... no go.

31... Henry and Florent Malouda combine for an attempt by Malouda from the edge of the box--he had room, he had no power.

Another look at the dagger

33... Simone Perrotta writhing on the grass, his hands on his shins. Play is stopped. More potential momentum hijacked.

35... Thuram with a fabulous save of what looked like a sure-shot goal by Luca toni. A corner. And Luca Toni AGAIN with a fabulous header, off the crossbar! France lucky, lucky to be out of this spat unscathed. But Italy keep this up, and we're singing "Tango Funebre" for France. Then again...

35... A superb run by Henry all the way to the 6-yrad line, slammed out by a defender for a corner: but nothing doing on that corner.

39... Another mistake by Barthez, who's now dueling with Luca Toni: how long can he get away with this? Luca will let him find out real soon.

42... The universal sign of fan boredom? They're doing the wave in Olympic Stadium, though it hasn't been a dull game: good battling, much better action in the last 20 minutes, but not much piercing success except for Luca. Zidane has spent a little more time on the grass than on the ball.

45... France attempting a final build, a slow munch upfield that Zidane loses just past thje midfield: no, Zidane in this half has not been on his game. Two minutes of injury time, which seems a bit of a robbery, considering how much time was lost in the first 20.

Yes, but where has he been?

HALF-TIME... AND WHERE'S OHDAVE?

It hasn't been a terrible first half by any means, but this can be said without much doubt: France would not be down 1-0 if Barthez was not in goal. Then again, Italy might have been up 3-1 if it had a few gusts of luck go its way. Zidane is not on his game. Henry is just off. France have to be stronger if they intend to pull this off. They look every bit their age.

SECOND HALF...

Henry with a nice breakaway to open the second half, a nifty shot from the far end of the box but right at the Italian keeper. And Malouda down with a knock to the head. The Italians are trying to intimidate France out of play.

The view from Rome

49... Scary moment for France with two pairs of Italian feet inside the six-yard box and Barthez looking like he's sipping a whiff of Revlon perfume on the Champs-Elysees... But Henry with a wonderful answer, a scramble through one, two defenders all the way into the box, a cross for an oncoming teammate, but intercepted. Good life from France, good pace from both.

What is it they call the Italians' football style? The dead bolt? They're turning it on. But France managing attacks again and again, swift passes on target, good penetration: this is a much better show by the French. The Italians were not expecting such a rejuvenated French side. Great action.

53... And another well-crafted attack started by Ribery, capped by a pass by Zidane to a player to be named later, who gets mashed to the ground near the six-yard line: don;t give me that shit says the Argentine ref. Italy not managing to play its possession game though: France again on the ball, with a wonderful run by Malouda all the way down to the goal-line, a cross to Ribery, but a foot off.

56... Trouble for the Ancien Regime: Patrick Vieira is out, Alou Diarra is in. Vieira is injured.

58... Again with the French-crafted probes inside the Italian zone, but the Italian defense is unfazed.

63... Another lucky break for France: Barthez caught flat-footed, a header for goal, but cited off-side. Totti by the way is out. Not that he was on the pitch for the entire hour he was alleged to have been in the line-up. Great action on the field. It's one attack after another.

From Le Monde half-way through the game: "Les Bleus ont ouvert le score dès la 7e minute de jeu après un pénalty généreusement accordé aux Bleus par l'arbitre. Dans cet exercice, Zidane a réussi à s'imposer face à Buffon grâce à un geste audacieux. Mais les Italiens, dominateurs dans le jeu, n'ont pas tardé à égaliser. Sur un corner tiré par Pirlo, Materazzi s'est imposé dans les airs pour tromper Barthez ."

65... Great shot by Florent Malouda from 20 yards out, just wide but preserving that run of attacks that has France smelling goal. Italy settling, trying to regain possession, even if it's just in its own half.

70... Zidane, with a free kick into the box, mishandled by the keeper for a great chance but no one there for France.

BILL CLINTON SIGHTING IN THE BERLIN STANDS! BILL! COME BACK! WE NEED YOU HERE!

The real leader(s) of what's left of the free world

73... Luca Toni is down!

Luca took a terrific 180-shot that Barthez saved, but he's been taken off the field to nurse his shins. Italy can't afford to be without him. France can.

WE'RE INTO GOLDEN GOAL situation now, with fifteen minutes left. Especially if Italy score.

But the pace of the game is being crabbed and cribbed by odd stoppages and inexplicable debates. Italy with a dangerous free kick from 30 yards out, straight on. From Christelle: "We keep the pressure, but we will score just before the end." Then again, Andrea Pirlo missed making it 2-1 Italy by a whisker.

80... Looks like the two sides are playing for extra time. Zidane again on the grass, pointing to his shoulder and sitting up, sort of like a pacha pondering his time: he's seemingly signaled for a sub. This is no way to end a career. No, he's not leaving. He just wanted a big cheer to get himself revved back up. And off we are again, finally. Let's not devolve this match's last ten minutes into a sprawl of lost time and mashed grass.

83... A slow-built French attack chested out by Italy for a French corner, but cleared, so is the rebound. France attempting to regain the pressure they'd built for the first twenty, thirty minutes of the second half, not quite succeeding: Malouda caught off side.

Henry with another slash into the Italian box, a good cross but again cleared. And again France regains possession at midfield, denying Italy's counter-attackers.

86... Italy's samurai, Mauro Camoranesi, goes out, the very dangerous Alessandro Del Piero is in. Zidane with another corner, Italy with another clear. Italy to France: "Keep coming. We just need one break." France, despite the pressure they've been applying on Italy, are managing to look less dangerous than the rare attacks Italians manage on Barthez: he is the liability, the uncertainty.

89... WHAT THE HELL ARE THE FRENCH DOING? Sagnol ends what looked like an air-tight attack and set of French passes arcing around the box, with a pass to nowhere for an idiotic turn-over. Italy on the ball.

90... Zidane again beaten in a one-on-one duel at midfield. That has been the tale of the great Zizou this time around, though it still takes one minor miracle for a major turn-around.

92... Every French cross into the box is a meek attempt: it's low-pressure possession, and Italy is waiting out the tired French legs, as if glad to be heading into extra time.

Come on now, give her reason to swell.

EXTRA TIME...

Premiere mi-temps...

How long can France hold out? Italy have managed to repeal every attempt on goal. The same can't be said of France. The crossbar, the gods, the winds have helped more than the French defense. But Zidane with a corner now...Cleared.

7... Italy not managing to regain more than token possessions: could the young stallions be flinching and flabbing off before the old horses? For now, that's what it looks like. Geritol is sponsoring this overtime. So is Viagra.

9... RIBERY WITH A WONDERFUL FAKE-AND-SLIP past the last defender at the edge of the box, and a shot... just wide of the post: by the width of this dot:. AND TREZEGUET IS IN FOR RIBERY!

12... Italy may as well despair: they're not managing more than imaginary touches, but why do they still seem so comfortable, so willing to stretch this out, to play for penalties? The answer goes from B to Z by way of an aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarse.

13... OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! ZIDANE! AN UNBELIEVABLE NO-CHANCE HEADER FOR GOAL FROM A CROSS BY SAGNOL, AND GIANLUIGI BUFFON MANAGES TO TIP IT JUST PAST THE CROSSBAR! Save of the match, one of the saves of the tournament. And yet... Is Italy managing to answer?

15... The longer this game goes, the better its older players manage.

end of first overtime...

This is where we are: France obviously don't want to go to penalties. Italy would much rather do so. The attacks are all France, the dead-bolt is all Italy.

Deuxieme mi-temps

16... Italy begin with an injured man terribly elbowed on the ear by a French player. France substituting: Thierry Henry is done. Thierry Henry is finished. Thierry Henry is out. Sylvain Wiltord, it's up to you.

We play a few minutes. We have another man down.

ZIDANE! ZIDANE WITH A DISGUSTING PLAY! ZIDANE WITH A HORROR! ZIDANE WITH A HEAD-BUTT TO THE CHEST OF AN ITALIAN PLAYER, AS CLEAR AND BLATANT AS ANYTHING DESERVING A RED CARD. AND YES! ZIDANE IS OUT! RED-CARDED! DESERVED! ABSOLUTELY DESERVED! WHAT A SHAME, WHAT A FUCKED-UP WAY TO END A RUN,SON OF A BITCH! PRE-MEDITATED AND INEXCUSABLE, ZIDANE'S ACTION. BOO HIM OFF ALL RIGHT.

Incroyable. This is no way to... but anyway. Let's play. If that's what this match is about now. I have my doubts. The idiotic American commentator, the ever-imbecilic and assinine Marcello Balboa, says they shouldn;t be showing the replays of Zidane's repulsive act. Why not, pray tell? Show it. Let Zidane take responsibility for mucking up what until now had been the honorable wonder of this tournament. The play on the field meanwhile has devolved into an approximation of football, hockey, skiing and bar-brawl.

26... More football now: the ball has been in play for two solid minutes, but now France are acting as if they're willing to take the penalties. Maybe we'll see poetic justice. But this has been the tournament of late goals, and Italy are on the ball again as they haven;t been for most of this match... but only briefly: a run deep inside French territory lost by a bad pass. Barthez is taking his time sending the ball back to Italy.

29... The ball is just skimming from out-ball to out-ball, running down the clock until this quick runaway attempt by France, a cross to Wiltord sliding in the box, he kicked it high above goal.

30... Italy just losr a corner to a missed call. We're into the last seconds of play.

And that's that. We're going to penalties. Bugger.

THE KICKER FRANCE ITALY
Andrea Pirlo, Italy
GOAL!
Sylvain Wiltord, France
GOAL!
Marco Materazzi, Italy
GOAL!
David Trezeguet, France
MISSED OFF CROSSBAR!
Daniel de Rossi, Italy
GOAL!
Eric Abidal, France
GOAL!
Alessandro Del Piero, Italy
GOAL!
Willy Sagnol, France
GOAL!
Fabio Grosso, Italy
GOAL!
 
 

 

italy win the world cup! italy win the world cup! italy win the world cup!

The trophy, and the man who lost it for France . Look away, Zizou, look away

See you in South Africa!

2010

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