Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Smooth Jimmy's Shoe-In of the Week

France vs. Portugal

Just like a born-again Christian is more filled of belief than a 4th generation Unitarian, I'm recently converted in the belief that the French could actually win this thing. I liked Portugal when this tournament started, and as the tournament progressed, I found myself disliking them more and more. They've done just barely enough to win every single game they've played. They have fallen all over the field grasping their knees and ankles and popping right back up they get the call they were looking for. They've played some really cynical defense. In my mind, this is the least deserving team to be in the Semis. And that's a shame, because they have a certain amount of underdog status, here--they haven't been this far into the tournament since the great Eusebio was electrifying audiences in the 50's.

My brain says this will be a close game. My heart, seconded by every other part of my body, is rooting for the French to put the Portugal in the fucking hurtlocker as soon as possible, so they can rest their aging superstars, so they can give Italy a fucking game. There's no doubt in my mind that a final featuring Italy and Portugal will be an awful affair, while Italy vs. France could be a final for the ages. But I'll try to evaluate this game whilst ignoring the my emotional desires here.

Obviously, Zidane is a huge key in the French attack. He was brilliant in the last game, and he'll need to be again. Riberry should also disrupt the Portugese defense. He's going to be taking a lot of hits in this game, as I don't think the Portugese really have a defensive answer for his pace and skill.

Nor do the French necessarily have an answer for Riberry's pretty opposite--Christiano Ronaldo may cause some serious havoc for the French defense.

The Goalkeeper for both teams have managed to be without serious error, despite the fact that both have reputations for fucking up. Could this be the game where either Ricardo or Barthez finally have a screw up? That could happen, absolutely, and it is the kind of x-factor that could take an obvious French victory into a Portugese win. Both of these teams have the possibility of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

But here's what I expect to see--a close game, closer in score than the gameplay would suggest. I expect France to dominate, but to have trouble getting the ball in the net. I expect Portugal to fire shots from all over the field inside 30 yards, and they may get lucky somewhere in there.

Prediction: In the end, though, Zidane leads his team to victory, by one goal, either 1-0, or 2-1, possibly with the deciding goal happening in extra time.

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