Plan Z–Vive la France?

zidane 2.jpgThat’s it, I guess I’m switching to Plan Z. After Germany’s shocking 2-0 loss to Italy in overtime yesterday, what other alternative do I have? It’s time to put the past behind me, forgive the snooty little French lady at the ticket booth at the Louvre and place my support behind Zidane, Henry and the rest of Les Bleus. Vive la France? Yeah, whatever.

I was disappointed that Germany didn’t have the legs to finish yesterday, but my hat’s off to the Italians for getting the job done and not letting the match go to PKs which would have only added more fuel to the fires of the mostly American soccer haters out there. The Azzurri outran and outfired Germany in overtime, and Fabio Grosso turned from diver to savior as he struck a beautiful one-touch bender off a splendid service from Andrea Pirlo. Moments later, substitute striker Allesandro Del Piero made a brilliant overlapping run down the left side, gathered in a deceitful reverse pass from Alberto Gilardino who seemed set to shoot himself, and hammered the final nail to the coffin into the right upper ninety.

Two perfectly executed goals in the white-hot moment of truth, brilliant defense (Azzurri still has only the one “own goal” in its debit column), and some gutsy coaching from Marcello Lippi who substituted strikers for midfielders and threw numbers into the Italian attack when most teams would have hunkered down for a shoot out (the result the Germans were probably looking for) were enough to send Italy through.

Lippi knew it was a matter of survival. If history held true (and it for the most part has in this World Cup) then Italy would most certainly have lost a shootout against the Germans; the Italians have never won a World Cup match in PKs and the Germans have never lost. Oh, and did I mention that the Germans have never beaten Italy in a World Cup match either? Bottom line, Italy was the better team on the pitch yesterday and justice was served, along with no small amount of wine and rejoicing in the streets of Rome.

Although it matters little at this point, there is some consolation for the U.S. in Italy’s drive into the final; that 1-1 tie back in group play is starting to look better and better. It’s not much, but the brave effort against Italy will be something for our National team and its fans to hold on to as they bind their wounds and start to rebuild toward 2010.

If history continues on course, France should advance against Portugal, setting up an Italy v. France final on Sunday. If that happens, I’ll reluctantly pull for France for the sake of The Man, Zinedine Zidane. In my opinion, he’s the centerpiece of the French squad, a veritable artist and maestro on the pitch and one of the finest footballers of his generation. For the sake of good art, I couldn’t root against him, despite the Gallic rooster on his jersey and the snooty Lady of the Louvre.

And if Portugal makes it to the final instead? Right now, I don’t even want to think about that. Desperate times call for mesures desespere. It’s time for Plan Z–Vive la Zidane!

Yeah, and France too.

  1. GREG

    Mike, I actually watched nearly all of Germany-Italy. I missed a little of the beginning, and a little late in regulation, but watched to the end. It was fun to watch. I may end up a “football” fan yet…

  2. Mike the Eyeguy

    I’m telling ya, soccer is great training for basketball (see Steve Nash and Grant Hill).

    If I get just one convert out of all this WC blogging, I’ll be a happy man!

  3. hermit Jeremy

    Yesterday, the Univisión commentators were saying that they think that Portugal and Italy have a stronger chance than Germany and France, given the fact that italo-portuguese teams rely less on their star player than the franco-german teams. Indeed, Totti was something of a non-starter for the Italians but the rest of the team seemed to pull it together.

  4. Mike the Eyeguy


    Indeed, Italy did a good job of taking Klose and Ballack out of the match, and no one else stepped up to fill the breach. Meanwhile, two Italian subs combined for the stake in the heart.

    Zidane is standing out as usual and has built a career out of playing large in large matches, but France is playing well as a team and seem to be peaking at just the right moment. He is the centerpiece and must play well. It will be interesting to see if Portugal came stop him. Even if they slow him down, look for someone like Ribery to streak in from the wing and get the job done.

    I like it that foreign commentators find angles which seem to elude our own. Just another sign of how far we have to go.

  5. JRB

    Don’f forget Thierry Henry for France, too. He’s their “real” prime star anyway, despite the aged ZZ’s last gasp resurgence for the last three games of his life.

  6. Mike the Eyeguy


    Good point, we shouldn’t overlook the man who is tied for 2nd in all-time WC scoring. And for that matter, Vieiera as well who has two goals.

    I like it when “old guys” do well. It gives me hope, even though I’m still 10 year older than Zidane.

  7. hermit Jeremy

    20 minutes in, there have been some very good shots by both teams. france has penetrated more, but that doesn’t mean that the Lusitan shots haven’t been dangerous…. but it does mean that their defenders better wake up if they want to play for something other than 3rd.

  8. Mike the Eyeguy


    Thanks for the update. I’m following it the best I can on the FIFA website and with phone updates from Number Three Son. It sounds like France was dominating possession early but it’s now about 50-50.

    You’re keeping me on my toes using big words like “Lusitan”–Wikipedia to the rescue!

    Oops, gotta go fix a corneal abrasion. Go Les Bleus (I can’t believe I just said that)!

  9. hermit Jeremy

    penalty kick! for the french, the portuguese who were looking really on top of the ball, just stuck their foot in it!

    ZZ’s scored for the Cocks!

    i’m finding that “my work” (writing a ‘scholarly’ article) keeps getting interrupted by soccer.

    barthez just bobbled the ball, but stopped it.

    now, there should’ve been a penalty for the portuguese, but the ref didn’t call it.

  10. hermit Jeremy

    well, the replay showed that the contact was incidental

  11. Mike the Eyeguy

    How much contact was there on the foul leading to the PK?

  12. hermit Jeremy

    the portuguese (carvalho) defender tripped up the french (henry t) … it was a good call. carvalho was on the ground and stuck his foot out…

  13. hermit Jeremy

    now, i’m off to pick up my daughter… alas! i miss the end of all these games.

    have fun playing with your lasers and such.

  14. Mike the Eyeguy


    Ah come on, she’s probably big enough to wait by herself until the match is over, don’t you think? How old is she, two maybe three?

    Perspective, Mike, perspective…

  15. hermit Jeremy

    17 mos

    thanks to spanish radio i got to hear how the portuguese have been flopping all over the place. their strategy seems to be get into the penalty area and fall.

  16. hermit Jeremy

    portugal has “dominated” the game, it seems, in terms of possesion and attacks, but cristiano ronaldo hogs the ball, maniche has few teammates to pass to, pauleta, before he was substituted, was virtually absent from the game

  17. hermit Jeremy

    four minutes stoppage to see if the pays du soliel portuguese can tie the game

  18. Mike the Eyeguy

    17 mo, ok, ok, we’ll let that one go this time.

    FIFA has possession at 59-41 Portugal. Looks like France was content to hunker down and double-lock the door.

  19. hermit Jeremy

    two corner kickes, even ricardo is in the penalty area!

    no go

  20. hermit Jeremy

    off-sides on portugal

    game’s over…

    it looks like we will have a show down between avignon and rome… it’s almost as if the papal sea were at stake …

  21. JRB

    Man! I missed y’all’s commentary. I would have joined in, but ESPN 360 hypnotized me. I’m glad I didn’t know about that live, free, TV quality video on my desk until today or I would have been fired before I resigned.

    Live by the sketchy PK, die by the sketchy PK.

    GO BLUE. (whichever you prefer.)

  22. hermit Jeremy

    the merciless radio commentators… who from their accents were colombian, brazilian, argentine, and possibly chilean (i could place the fourth)… thought the pk not too sketchy at all… and they vilified the portuguese as a bunch of liars

  23. Mike the Eyeguy

    Uh, what’s EPSN 360? Drats!

    I’ve got to read up on the Avignon Papacy and other medieval matters before Sunday. There’s got to be some connections there somewhere. History and soccer–two great tastes which taste great together!

    This has given me an idea–Sunday I’m going to blog live on the final. I hope JRB and hermit Jeremy and anyone else out there will join in.

  24. hermit Jeremy

    i should say, i actually watched the foul on univisión… but i heard them talk about it on the univisión radio affiliate.

  25. Mike the Eyeguy

    There’s a few good still shots on the FIFA site of the foul. Looks like the Portugeuse defender stuck his foot out in the box and Henry “tripped.”

    A reckless challenge in the box is poor judgement and asking for trouble. I’m looking forward to watching the replay.

  26. JRB

    Now, I think the PK was a fair call. As you said, the P defender was on the ground and could not have accidentally, naturally tripped TH. TH didn’t dive, because he had the advantage. It was a fair call, but so far in this WC, the refs seem to have been very, very reluctant to call fouls in the box. If it had been much later in the game, I don’t think he would have called it. I’ve read some folks talking about a reluctance to sway games with big calls like that. This ref is the notorious cat from the US/Italy scrap, so he apparently could not care any less because he’s going home to Uruguay.

    ESPN 360 is stunning to me, and it’s only free until July 19. It’s the ESPN broadcast on the net, and even our inadequate bandwidth handled it nicely.

  27. hermit Jeremy

    i may be able to get away for a few comments… but i don’t know that DW will be very warm on it. she too likes soccer… well, she likes any sport. and she dislikes the blogosphere. but, i will leave the hermitage at least once for the big game.

    will the juventus scandal weigh down the azzurri like leaded boots?

    will les bleus, captained by zidane and guarded by barthez, relive the glory days of 1998?

  28. Mike the Eyeguy


    Hey, whatever you can manage is fine–gotta keep those home fires burning! I appreciate you hanging out here today, that was fun.

    Lippi insists the scandal is having little effect, and judging from yesterday’s play, I would have to agree. Number Three son said Zidane played well but not as well as the other day. But with 4 days rest, perhaps he’ll regain top form for the final. Barthez has looked a little wobbly at times. If it comes down to who has the best keeper, Italy’s Buffon, with his feline reflexes and athleticism, may win the day.

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