FIFA World Cup 2006: Why Italy Won
It's been a long month of late nights, leastways in this part of the globe. Despite India not having a horse in the race, metaphorically speaking, hordes of football aficionados and new fans watched most matches with as much gusto as a die-hard Gunner or Azzurri fan.
Speaking of which, the finals were tense and exciting in more ways than one. Whether it was Zidane's unceremonious send-off or players going down like bowling pins as they danced around their field of dreams, there was rarely a dull moment. The French seemed to be focusing on a defensive strategy, allowing their strikers like Zidane and the diminuitive Ribery to be marooned in a sea of blue while they guarded their 'little Gaulish village'. Zizou's penalty kick gave them early hopes which were held at bay by Materazzi's header soon afterwards. The Italian victory in the penalty shootout might or might not have been averted by Zizou's continued presence, but it must be said the 2006 World Cup finals were fought tooth and nail.
The question still remains - why did Italy win? Their initial grouping saw them take down Ghana 2-0, and draw with the USA 1-1. The knockout stage did not see them go up any of the top-seeded teams until the semi-finals, and the hairbreadth victory in the last few minutes of extra time over Germany in the semis gave them some hope.
If one looks at the French progression through the tournament, it is evident the Oriflamme did not fly with gusto for the team. They entered the tables with 14-1 odds, that slipped to 25-1 after their initial draws with Switzerland (1-1) and South Korea (0-0). Had South Korea not lost to Switzerland 2-0, they might even have gone home early. In the knockout stage, they slipped past Spain (3-1) in a match that was similar to the finals, with the French having possession of the ball only 39% of the time, and Zidane scoring the clinching goal. Their defeat of Brazil stopped many hearts, again thanks to the artistry of Zidane. The semi-finals were quite unspectacular, and displayed the trademark French approach of staying behind with the Camembert while a few explorers attempted colonization of enemy territory.
This tactic did not work against the determined and well-coordinated Italians in the Finals. They enfiladed the French defense time and again, particularly Materazzi and Grosso. The second half saw the French in a more aggressive mode, but to no avail. The lack of anger management by Zidane may have various reasons, from racial taunts to close marking by Materazzi, but had he and his fellow mid-fielders been given more support by his team-mates, they might have been able to finish the game victors.
As it stands, Italy takes home the Cup, and Zizou leaves soccer, perhaps under a cloud, more likely with lasting respect. The wikipedia article on Zidane has been temporarily restricted due to vandalism, and bistros across Europe, and indeed, the world will debate the state of football for a long time to come.
Postscript: Another reason for Italy's victory may come from somewhat unexpected quarters. Loyal Congressmen in India, and even Umesh Thackeray's Sainiks (taking a respite from exercising their right to protest), offered prayers all day for Italy's victory, given that their Dear Leader, and India's bahu, Sonia Gandhi hails from the land of pizza and Vespa, and today, Grosso.
FIFA World Cup 2006: Why Italy Won
- » Published on July 10, 2006
- » Type: News
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