Friday, June 30, 2006

spinachdip's guide to the World Cup: Italy vs Ukraine

Friday, June 30

Italy vs Ukraine (3 pm ET ESPN2/Univision)

Francesco Totti is Chris Martin, Andryi Shevchenko is Julia Stiles

I find both Totti and Chris Martin a bit annoying. They don't really seem to bring anything different, though I have to admit, I kinda like the 2 or 3 songs they keep making over and over. It seems like they're superstars by default, like we need an Italian superstar too ooh-ahh over, while the music industry wants a massive band to be the U2 of this generation, the kind that plays accessible songs that people can sing along too without feeling like a pedophile.

Shevchenko and Julia Stiles are supposed to be really talented. But what have they done? Sure, he's scored a lot of goals for Milan and they've won championships, but it seems like he's almost detached from the success - when you have Gattuso, Pirlo, Seerdorf and Kaka in the midfield, you don't need that much quality at the forward spot. Julia Stiles has had her hits, but they've generally been formula flicks that any pretty face could have filled. You put her in an ensemble piece like State & Main and she completely disappears (in a relatively minor role, granted). Far less talented actresses show more charisma than Stiles, who has gotten through her career with exactly two facial expressions and one tone of voice...

Which is what it feels like watching Ukraine play. There's no real attempt to play soccer - they just whack the ball really hard and hope Sheva gets to it first. No imagination, no variety. Somehow, they've outlasted their Groupmate Spain, who had so far been the second best looking team after Argentina, but had the misfortune of facing a suddenly rejuvenated France, while Ukraine was rewarded for finishing second in a mediocre group.

To me, that's a bigger injustice than Australia losing to Italy. I know I'm going to piss some people off, but the Socceroos didn't deserve that game. I wanted them to win. I thought they looked much better than Italy and controlled the match, but like Japan against them, the Aussies refused to capitalize on their opportunities, even after Italy went down a man after the questionable red card. And the penalty? I'm going to say it was 50-50 after watching the replay (turn up the volume REALLY LOUD on this one). And even if it wasn't a foul, there was a good chance it wasn't a dive - it looked like Grosso lost his balance trying to go around Neill. But that's really beside the point . Lucas Neill should never have gone into a tackle two-footed like that. Even though he didn't initiate the contact, that was just a reckless tackle and he was basically asking for a foul to be called. And for their part, the Italians, divers or not, didn't stop playing and the way Buffon was defending the goal, I don't think Australia would have had a chance in extra time. I still hate the greasy diving Italians and admire the way the Aussies played, but Italy belongs in the quarterfinals, and presumably the semis.

Fearless prediction: Italy 2 - 1 Ukraine

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