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.
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?