spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: Who controls the British Pound? Who made Steve Gutenberg a star?
If last week told you anything, it's that you shouldn't take gambling tips from me. I actually thought Ukraine would score and England would win on penalties, for Freddy Adu's sake. But I will tell you who to root for in this penultimate round of the World Cup.
Tuesday, July 4 - Germany vs Italy (3pm ET - ESPN/Univision)
Having received my football education in Ingerland, it's hard for me to root for either team. Germany is to England the unibrowed baby is to Maggie Simpson, while Italy is the opposite of England: cynical, cheating, and generally successful.
Not that either country doesn't have its charms: Germany offers tasty beers, fahrvergnugen and Heidi Klum. Italy has taught us dipping our breads in olive oil, gangland murders and the cooking of Giada De Laurentiis. But we're talking about soccer here, not real life, and as far as soccer is concerned, the two lands are still ruled by Hitler and Mussolini and it's 1939 again.
I've thought about this hard and long, and I have to say, my hatred of Germany runs deeper than my hatred of Italy. Germany has been responsible for the early exit of teams I've liked many times - England in '90, England and Czech Republic in Euro 96, and USA, Cameroon and Korea in '02. Meanwhile, Italy has more often been a victim of unjust and/or cruel losses, like that extra time loss to France in the Euro '00 final, Baggio's missed penalty kick in the '94 World Cup, etc. Plus, every post-WW2 World Cup final except '78 has featured Brazil and/or Germany; with Brazil out, this is our chance to buck the trend.
And the Italians have actually taken steps to be less greasy, as the previously girly-looking Totti, Cannavaro and Del Piero all took clippers to their temples and now sport more sensible, almost German looking haircuts. Plus, Torsten Frings has been suspended for his part in the post-match brawl, which takes away 50% of the fun from watching Germany -that is, shouting "TORSTEN FRINGS!!" at the screen. My call: Forza Italia and schadenfreude on Deutschland, but root for a penalty shootout for maximum pain.
edit: Okay, I felt dirty proclaiming my support for Italy. Or more accurately, not rooting against Italy. But for all the talk about Italian diving, let us not forget that Germany is coached by Jurgen Klinsmann, a master diver in his days. In any case, bring your scuba gear to your local pub.
Wednesday, July 5 - France vs Portugal (3pm ET - ESPN/Univision)
I realize that it won't be Bastille Day for another 11 days, but Vive la France and shit. If I went back in time 10 days and told the Mid/Late-June Me that France would make Brazil look utterly silly, the Mid/Late-June Me would've slapped the shit out of Early-July Me, and then asked for winning lottery numbers.
But here we are, France is playing like France 1998-2000 and all the usual pretenders - England, Spain, Netherlands - have dutifuly bowed out and have taken their planes home.
Good bye English rose, may you ever grow in our hearts.
Meanwhile, Portugal has made it this far by being good enough. While that might come across as a backhanded compliment, in past tournaments Portugal simply hasn't been good enough (or more frequently, not in attendance). You don't win many trophies if you aren't good enough, no matter how good you are. So i should be rooting for them to stop underachieving. This is their time. Yet, I can't root for them. They're doing enough diving for Italy and Argentina combined and they might actually be greasier than Italy. And I don't care how good Cristiano Ronaldo is, he's a punk ass bitch (and named after Ronald Reagan to boot). You simply can't root for Portugal.
But you can root for France. Zinedine Zidane is playing magnificent soccer in these final matches of his career. He's one of the greatest athletes of his generation and playing in a World Cup final would be the most fitting way to go. All the while, Franck Ribery has done almost as great a job as J.C. Chasez to Zidane's Justin Timberlake, and the midfield duo of Patrick Vieira and Claude Makelele made mincemeat out of Brazil's attack. And hey, Thierry Henry dropped by for a goal! Drop your Francophobia for at least one day - allez les Bleus.