Wednesday, 5 July 2006

If I had to, absolutely had to….

I heard someone say that last nights match between Germany and Italy was at last a match befitting of the World Cup.

Too right it was. There have been a few great games in this tournament, but this was a classic, two excellent sides going at each other hammer and tongs for 120 minutes.

It could have gone either way of course with Germany squandering some great chances but Italy were the better side and deserved to go through, especially after treating us to two wonderful goals.

I fancied Germany for the final (surprise, surprise) but I’m delighted Italy went through not least because it means one of my all time heroes Alessandro Del Piero may get a chance to reconstruct his legacy.

I saw Del Piero make his debt for Juventus in 1993. He scored on his second appearance and in his first start, he scored a hat trick against Parma.

When Rangers played Juve in the Champions League in 1996, he humiliated the runaway Scottish Champions home and away contributing to a 4-1 home and a 4-0 away victory in a run that saw the Italian giants lift the trophy.

Maradonna is quoted as saying he feels he is better than Zidane. Some accolade.

Del Piero has done it all at club level but for Italy, he is remembered mainly for blowing a great chance to win the European Championships final in 2000. He’s was also part of the two Italian squads who underachieved in both France and Korea.

Hopefully he’ll get the chance to sign off on his international career in style.

A shame for the Germans though wasn’t it? The team grew into the tournament as the nation grew to follow them. I haven’t heard a bad word said about the hosts, who have garnered a justified reputation for warmth as the competition has progressed. The fans deserved a place in the final, even if the team did not.

Which brings us to tonight. Surely the football Gods must favour the French in their encounter with the dour, diving Portuguese? Or have I just administered the kiss of death by backing them?

Portugal’s progress has been pretty remarkable considering their team is largely made up of older players and journeymen who have struggled to land a club. But they have ruined both knock out matches they have been involved in so far with their unsportsmanlike antics. Lets hope they either wake up and play, or get the doing they deserve.

It’s all shaping up rather nicely.

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