France’s Aging Magician Conjures A Final Trick

How was the NY Times so prescient when it placed Zinédine Zidane on the front cover of its Sunday edition yesterday, with the above headline? Unless, of course, the editors were thinking that Zidane’s ‘Final Trick’ might involve leading his team to victory, rather than being dismissed for a head butt to Marco Materazzi during extra time. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to hear that Materazzi had thrown some racist insult Zizou’s way, but a major part of football these days involves turning the other cheek, as David Beckham and Wayne Rooney have also learned to their cost along the way. One can’t help but feel that Zizou played himself into Italian hands.

French class and maturity falls apart at the finish.

So, the Wine World Cup was ultimately won by a team that was tight at the back, controlled in the middle, occasionally opened up with brilliant forward touches, and had a precise, thrilling finish. It was mostly indigenous, surprisingly harmonious, and delightful in its ultimate exuberance. I’d like to think of the Italians as the footballing equivalent of a high-end Chianti Classico Riserva at its absolute peak, say a decade into its career.

The runners-up had hoped to rely on their maturity, proven class and past reputation, but were initially disappointing, and despite opening up in the middle and offering occasional flashes of world-renowned brilliance, finished harshly. Think of the French as a classic vintage Bordeaux opened just too late, and subsequently falling part in the glass in front of one’s very nose.

A strange end, then, to what was ultimately a disappointing World Cup. A low goal average, few real surprises from either the minnows or the Giants, and a Final decided on Penalties. That’s only from a neutral’s point of view. From the personal perspective of an England and U.S.A. fan, the tournament was one step short of disastrous.

Still for me, there was one glorious silver lining to what can never fail to have its entertaining moments. Coming on the heels of our mutual addiction to the Playstation 2 Fifa 2006 game, the World Cup served to confirm my 10-year old son Campbell’s newly-found love of the game. He was as excited as me to watch the Final yesterday, is routinely taking the ball out for a kick around, and has begged me to buy a net for the garden. Next stop: a season ticket for the Red Bulls? Complete with Zizou and Becks?

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1 Comment(s)

  1. snotty moore

    10 July, 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Rumours here suggest Materazzi gave it the usual ‘yr mother/sister is a whore’ bit. Or he got a dig in about Zidane’s old coach who recently died of cancer. The assumption that a man with plenty of previous for violent conduct can only be roused by racism seems to have originated with the disgruntled French losers. If he wasn’t guilty of it (I don’t know) I hope Materazzi sues. Hell, if cricketers were so sensitive to perceived slights slip fielders would have no teeth. Zidane proved at the last that unlike Maradona and Pele, he was thinking of himself and not the team.
    Of course he could have planned all along to go out with a bang in his last game. But the final insult was his award of the Golden Ball as best player in a truly crappy tournament. Highspots- Team Nike getting knocked out by the first decent team they played. The Portugal-Holland fight. Germany V Italy, Argentina V Mexico (but marred by Heinze staying on). Ghana’s midfield. Italy winning me a nice wedge.
    Low spots- Portugal- dirtiest, slyest, most cynical team ever (thank God we didn’t get Scolari), Team Nike’s turd of a coach calling the Ghana manager ‘a whinger and a loser’ after he’d been sent off for quite reasonably asking the clearly biased ref why he didn’t just wear yellow from the start. Lucas Podolski winning best young player- almost as big a cheat as Cris Ronaldo but without a tenth of the talent. African teams getting stitched up in the draw again.

    Roll on the Champions League. The football is better, there are no fairweather part-time experts watching and spouting off and there’s not the slightest pretence that it’s about anything but money.


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