Lads and Lassies, we've looked at both of these teams a number of times, and there is certainly a limit of how much new shit we can say.
So, for the sake of fun, which we are very loosely using as a term, we thought it would be fun to take a look at our Group Predictions from where these two teams came from, so we can laugh about how wrong we were, and also, see if there was any smart things said by yours truly.
Of Italy, I said (ugh) this:
The question is, how good is Italy going to be? The more I ponder it, the more I think Italy is setting up to be huge disappointments. Distractions at home, that every player has admitted to be constant source of discussion. Three very credible threats in the group, and not a cupcake at any stop.I've done it! Heart or head? I'm not sure which, but I'm calling The Czech Republic the first team out of this group, and the USA the second. I'll probably regret that, but for now, it feels real good to type. Feels tingly.
So I was very very wrong there, but I hedged my bets carefully enough to not be totally wrong.
But where did I go wrong?
1. Cannavaro. He's been like loctite for that defense. Italy has always been good on defense, I mean, hell, EVERYONE's favorite leftback of all time is Italian. But Cannavaro has been as Harkes put it today during the 3rd place game, a lion. If it were on HBO, and David Milch was producing the telecast, I'm sure he would have said, "A fucking lion, who fucking kills and eats fucking offensive players and shits gold."
2. I thought the Italian diving would bite them in the ass, and it didn't. They worked the refs in a wonderfully cynical way so devoid of human compassion that it makes me wonder if they've been reading Ayn Rand. When they finally got called on their diving, they stepped up their play. Like I said previously, I hope we see the Italy of the last match or two that they've played. So much depends on the officiating. Sure William Carlos Williams would tell you that much depends on the white chickens by the red wheelbarrow in the rain, but that was poetry, not soccer, and no matter how much you hear JP Dellacamera tell you otherwise, the two are not the same.
3. Timely scoring. They haven't been the offensive show I thought they would be, but their recent line-up, with Totti getting healthy has been showing itself to be just dangerous enough to punish mistakes.
Oh, man , if you thought I was way off on Italy, wait until you see what I said about France...
Old and overrated, and now without their other good striker, Cisse. Henry is almost enough to make this squad compelling, and is probably enough, with Zidane, to win first prize in this group of Summer School Students. That doesn't make them good. They won't get past the quarterfinals unless upsets happen elsewhere.
I looked deadly accurate in group play. France did look old in Group Play. But the upsets that happened, happened because France created them.
So where did I go wrong?
1. Barthez wasn't psychotic. No big mistakes from the oft-questioned crazy little dude. The 2nd Law of Thermodyanmics, or something requires he make a huge mistake soon. The French are hoping it will be off the pitch. Perhaps dumping Linda Evangelista? Oh wait, did he already do that? Merde!
2. Zidane had more in the tank that I thought. He's been nothing short of brilliant. He'll need to be again, for just one more game, and if the French pull this off, he'll be right up there with Platini (above him?) in French footballing mythology.
3, The underrated youth on this squad. I thought not including Guilly was a huge mistake, and I still do. But part of my reasoning was based on the fact that France had closed the door on their younger players, which wasn't true at all. Sagnol and Riberry have been as much of a part of the team's success as anyone. Riberry may be the difference maker in the final. We'll see.
We can hope against hope that this isn't a low scoring game, just like we can hope against hope that The Tick cartoon comes out on DVD soon. But it ain't, and this will be.