Monday, July 10, 2006


So that's that then. What began as a fascinating tournament fizzled out due to a cocktail of incredibly negative tactics, an embarrassing amount of diving and some pretty poor sportsmanship.

It's been a competetion that will be remembered for the mistakes. Managers forgetting to include fit strikers in their squad or taking off their most inventive players before conceding an equaliser and having to play extra-time without the benefit of their creativity. Two decisions that left two nations wondering "What if?"

Of course, it wasn't just the managers. Plenty of players got it wrong too. Zidane and Rooney are obvious examples but it went much further than that. At least when those two were on the pitch they were occasionally doing their job.

A bunch of players we were expecting wonders from never turned up: Ronaldinho, Shevchenko, Lampard, Pauleta, Gerrard, van Nistelrooy, Ibrahimovich all spring to mind. Even though he broke the World Cup goal-scoring record, we'll remember Ronaldo more for his size than for anything he did with the ball.

And the gamesmanship and the diving... Even Thierry Henry got in on the act. No wonder the referees made so many glaring errors, although none so funny as our man Graham Poll giving Simunic three yellow cards and the Croat's outrage at being sent off knowing full well he shouldn't have been on the pitch...

The pundits were pretty atrocious too, the ITV anchor referring to the Italians as "Eye-Ties" deserving a special mention. David Pleat did his usual job of mangling the names of anyone playing for a team other than England whilst Ian Wright did his usual job of providing the same incisive input as you might get from the resident drunk down your local. Presumably this was for the benefit of those watching on their own without a local with a resident drunk to hang out with.

Mark Lawrenceson and John Motson were as painful to listen to as ever. Exhibit A:
Motty: Makelele's like an iron out there. Removing all the wrinkles.

Lawro: Yep. He's never pressed.

20 million viewers: How much of our licence fee is paying for this sh1te?
It almost had me yearning for German-style commentary which is rather minimalist to say the least.

The fact that six times as many people watched the BBC's coverage of the final compared to ITV's just goes to show how awful the ITV team were. One can only wonder how many people did the sensible thing, turned the telly to mute and pumped up Alan Green and Co. on Five Live...

Perhaps feeling left out, even FIFA managed to get things badly wrong in the end. The Golden Butt Boot Ball went to Zidane:

A nice way to end your career, in disgrace in front of a billion people. Quite how the Golden Boot Ball could go to a player who only showed up for three games is beyond me. [Edit - this isn't just FIFA's fault. They only drew up the shortlist which the media voted on.]

And their young player of the tournament award went to diving whiner bastion of fair-play, Germany's Podolski, shown here congratulating the smuggest referee I think I've ever seen after Sweden's Lucic was dismissed for a second bookable offence:

It could have been worse. The runner-up? Christiano Ronaldo.

FIFA sure know how to reward honesty, fair-play and the like.

The team who won? I hear they're good at penalties:

It seems an age ago that we were drooling over the quality of the matches and the never-say-die attitude of most of the teams during the group stage.

At the time, the Switzerland-Ukraine game seemed to be an aberration, but within days the fear on display that evening had infected everybody else.

The one team to actually bother with full-out attack seemed to be the Germans, presumably because it took the pressure away from their supposedly ramshackle defence. How cruel that this positive approach was trumped in the dying seconds of extra time by the Italians' fear of taking them on at penalties.

Overall, pretty disappointing. The team playing the best football went out due to their manager losing his bottle and the team playing some of the dullest football won on penalties.

To make up for it, these five goals ought to wake up those who found themselves nodding off during last night's dreary encounter, a reminder of when this tournament was interesting.

And if they don't do the trick, here's the alternative final, courtesy of Ten German Bombers.

More round-ups here and here.


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