spinachdip's guide to the 2006 World Cup: What the fuck?
So the clever writer that I am, I figured the headline for this post would be something simple, like Fin, or Les Bleus blew! or Up your ass-urrri, Azzurri!, but Lady Luck never seems to smile upon me. Rather, she prefers to pour a freshly poured pint of Boddington on my head.
I mean, whether you supported for the cheese eating surrender monkeys of France or the greasy, flopping fascists of Italy, who would have wanted the great Zinedine Zidane's last act as a professional footballer to be this?
That's Zidane in a nutshell - supremely talented, but with a temper to go along with it (but seriosuly, as Angelina asks, what did Cosmo Kramer say to Zizou?).
And in an oversimplified way, that's why France lost (that's a new one, isn't it?). The +10 of France was playing for one reason - to give Zidane the last hurrah. Like D'Artagnan et les Trois Mousquetaires, the French were tous pour un. Too bad Zidane wasn't un pour tous. Think about it - let's say you and your boys are trying to get me laid because I've been on a dry spell (which is to say, a dry life) and I'm leaving for the peace corps tomorrow. And I go off and piss off every girl in the bar, making you look bad? You're not going to work as hard for me, are you? Voila, France loses.
The more rational explanation is that France couldn't finish. They threatened so many times, but like every other team that faced the Azzurri, they could not penetrate the fortress that was goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. And one by one, the most dangerous weapons for France left the pitch. Midfield engine Patrick Vieira went out for an injury. Riebery was out of gas by the extra time. And there was that odd substitution, taking off Thierry Henry. To cap it off, a moment of madness from Zidane. By the end of extra time, France was zapped of its talent and will.
Credit has to go to Italy though, however begrudgingly. They came through the toughest group in the World Cup, and beat Germany in Kaiserslauten, where the host nation had not lost in 35 years. You have to hand it to a team that gave up two goal the entire tournament - an own goal to the United States and a penalty on a dubious foul. Say what you will about their snorkelling ways, they were the best team in the tournament.
But before we say our final so long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, adieu, let us recognize the eleven players who shined the brightest, spinachdip's Best XI of the 2006 World Cup:
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy): Is there any doubt that Buffon is the greatest keeper playing right now? As well as Germany's Jens Lehmann played for Germany, even considering Ricardo's performance for Portugal against England in penalty kicks, there was one goalkeeper who stood above all. The two goals he allowed were an own goal to USA and a penalty to France. Rock fucking solid.
Fabio Cannavaro (Italy): For me, the player of the tournament. He came up with so many big tackles and didn't make a single mistake. So much has been made about Italy's departure from its old negative ways to a fast, attacking style, but the defense never left the Azzurri. If Cannavaro doesn't get the Golden Ball, it would be a travesty.
John Terry (England): England is, and will always be one of the most infuriating teams to watch, because its ability to ignore its talents and shit a game away. But like Italy, England's defense was ever present and Terry was the anchor.
Philipp Lahm (Germany): Germany is generally known for its boring, boring, boring soccer, but the Mannschaft brought an attractive and attacking, yet disciplined brand of football, and Lahm was a huge reason. Always a threat down the flanks, his combination of offense and defense kept opponents honest while creating space for his midfielders.
Ginaluca Zambrotta (Italy): Like Germany, Italy shed its image for boring, negative ways and the wingbacks were a huge reason. Fabio Grosso, Zambrotta's mirror on the left side, was the hero for his extra time goal against Germany and the penalty against France, but Zambrotta was the constant threat. His goal against Ukraine was one of the best in the tournament and he neutralized opposing wingers.
Owen Hargreaves (England): David Beckham didn't show up. Steven Gerrard and Frank Lampard can't play together. But one player who did show up was Owen Hargreaves. It doesn't matter that Hargreaves was born in Canada and has never lived in England - he showed more commitment to the Queen and Ye Olde England than anyone else wearing St. George's Cross. He kept England in the game against Portugal after Wayne Rooney was sent off, and was the only English player to make his penalty. Knight him or something already.
Michael Essien (Ghana): Essien is the only player in my Best XI not to play in the knockout stage. But I'm picking him precisely because he didn't play in the knockout stage. Did you see how Ghana completely dominated the Czech Republic, and the United States to a lesser extent? And how the Brazilian midfield had a field day against Ghana without him? That's Essien.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): I hate to pick Ronaldo here. As talented as he is, young Crisitiano is a complete douchebag. So much so that he lost out on the Best Young Player award because of his douchebaggery. Still, the only things stopping Ronaldo were his teammates' inability to finish, lack of marksmanship, and his tendency to go down easily and theatrically.
Franck Ribery (France): What, no Zidane? Not after his Bonsoir! on Marco Materazzi. On the other hand, Ribery had a tournament he wouldn't want to forget - he was constantly dangerous, challenging defenders and creating room for Zidane. France will go through a changing of guards after the World Cup, but Ribery will be part of the team for a long time to come.
Hernan Crespo (Argentina): Remember, oh about a week ago, when I and everyone else was calling Argentina the best team in the tournament? Crespo was a huge part of it, scoring 3 goals in the tournament. Pretty amazing for a guy who does absolutely nothing for his club side, Chelsea. And Argentina would have been in the final had they not given up a goal to one...
Miraslov Klose (Germany): To be honest, I didn't think this Polish-born striker was that much. He rose to fame in the last World Cup, but that was mostly because of the three goals he scored in an 8-0 demolishing of Saudi Arabia. But in this World Cup, he's shown up in every match. He's scored key goals, the most important of which, the equalizer against Argentina, after which the tournament favorites completely fell apart. As the Univision announcers like to call him, he is Santa Klose.
I had a difficult time leaving off the following players: Stephen Appiah (Ghana), Lilian Thuram (France), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Fabio Grosso (Italy), Maniche (Portugal), Patrick Vieira (France), David Odonkor (Germany) and Clint Dempsey (USA).
Finally, the best moments watching the match at Mr. Dennehy's in the Village:
3. The boos for Cristiano Ronaldo in the final U2-accompanied montage, immediately followed by cheers for Clint Dempsey.
2. The bigger cheers that went up for the Hot Brazilian Chick™.
1. The biggest cheers of the afternoon going to Bill Clinton. I'm talking bigger than for either of the goals in the match. 5+ years under George W. Bush can do a lot for a dude's legacy.
I hope you had as much fun following the World Cup as I did. Let's do this again in 2010.