World Cup Germany 2006, Part… Six? Five? I lost track.

While today is the Fourth of July, I will be wearing as much Italy gear as possible in the hopes that they defeat Germany. With Brazil and Argentina out, Germany is probably the favorite to win the whole shebang.

Anyhow, for the semifinals: I hope Italy beats Germany, but Italy needs to score some goals. They have nine in five games so far, but they haven’t been against really tough defenses, andGermany’s defense has given up only one goal since their first match of the tournament. Let’s hope Luca Toni is awake now and will give the German defense some big problems.

Meanwhile, Italy’s defense is the best in the tournament; the only goal they gave up was an own goal against the USA. That’s another reason I want Italy to win this World Cup; if they do, we can say that the US was the only nation that they didn’t beat. And if Italy shuts out their next two opponents, we’ll be able to say that we’re the only nation that “scored” on them.

In the other semifinal, I’ll take France over Portugal because France dives a little less. France has been getting better with each game: tie, then a tie they should’ve won, then a win, then a comeback win against Spain, then a win against Brazil… Zidane keeps getting better, Henry is scoring goals, and Ribery has emerged as a great player on the wing in spite of his horrible haircut. They’re clicking at just the right time. If they manage to win the whole thing—perhaps against the Germans for some small measure of historical vengeance?—it’ll cement Zidane’s position as the greatest player of his generation, greater even than Ronaldo.

Italy beating France in the final would be sweet revenge for the loss in the 2000 Euro championship, the shootout loss in 1998, the Round of Sixteen loss in 1986…

Germany beating France in the final would be totally historically consistent.

Okay, back to my predictions from a week ago: I correctly picked six out of the eight Round of Sixteen games. I was totally wrong about the Netherlands-Portugal game; I thoughtHolland would win easily. It was an ugly game all around. The ref may have given too many cards, but the players didn’t make it any easier for him. The Dutch broke the unwritten rule about returning the ball after an injury, there were handballs and hacks all over the place, and Figo should have gotten a red card for his head-butt. The game tied a record for yellows and set one for reds. In the end, I think Portugal played better and deservingly won. I didn’t expect France to get past Spain, but they played better and won. Even then, there was a fishy call… Henry may have been fouled on the play that led to France’s go ahead goal, but he certainly wasn’t elbowed in the face.

I have to admit that Italy’s win over Australia was a little shaky. They won on a last-second penalty kick which may have been undeserved. Was it a dive? Maybe. The Italian player drew a foul; the Aussie slid at the Italian, and the Italian tried to go over him, couldn’t and got the call. Is there a difference between “diving” and “drawing a foul”? If so, then the Italian drew the foul. If not, then the Italian dove. Either way, the Aussie left his feet in the penalty box and put himself at the Italian’s mercy. Big mistake.

I only got one semifinalist out of four right: Italy. I thought Brazil would get past whomever they ended up playing, I thought we’d see a England-Holland quarterfinal, and I thought the Germany-Argentina game was too close to call.

It would have been nice to see both Germany and Argentina get to the semis, but they weren’t bracketed that way. Argentina played better at the beginning, but Germany finished stronger. I don’t understand Argentina’s substitutions; I know they had to use one for the goalie, but they benched Riquelme way too early. If you’re trying to defend a one-goal lead and you take off an attacker, you need to replace him with an extra defender in the back or a fresh attacker who can be a big threat downfield so that the opponent can’t attack as much as they’d like. Argentina had two such attackers, Messi and Saviola, but the coach inexplicably left them on the bench and brought in Julio Cruz. Ze Germans didn’t have to worry about him at all. Ze Germans dominated in overtime and deserved to win, which they did in penalty kicks.

But to paraphrase Alfredo di Stefano, “Games are not deserved, they are won.” England outplayed Portugal despite being a man down, but lost in PKs. In fact, England played better with ten men than they did with eleven. It reminded me of the Italy-US game; Italy played better when they were down ten to eleven, and the US played better two reds later when they were down nine to ten. I should re-watch those games and see if there was a reason the short-sided teams suddenly played better, aside from the obvious call to arms. Either way,England’s Wayne Rooney should be shot for getting his red card. His temper may have cost England a spot in the semifinals and a possible spot in the final. I don’t care how young he is, his behavior is consistently, inexcusably immature and he owes his country an apology.

France beat Brazil, which was unthinkable a week ago. But France looked good and Brazil looked lethargic. I didn’t get to see most of the game, but I did see Adriano and Robinho getting subbed in… which means neither one of them started. I looked it up and turns out Brazil had lined up in a 4-5-1. Brazil started the game with only one forward on the field. Inconceivable. Un-possible.

Back in a few hours with either jubilation or despondence.

[Updated 5:40 PM EST.]

Italy 2:0 Germany! Two goals in the last two minutes of extra time! I hereby jubilate.

A haiku:

Black, red, yellow tears
flow down German children’s cheeks.
Italy, two zip.