Friday, June 20, 2008

Die Bart Die

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger sent in a free-kick from the left flank into the box. As the ball arrived, Michael Ballack pushed Portugal's (and Chelsea teammate--awkward) Paolo Ferreira out of the way and headed home what would turn out to be Germany's game-winning third goal. It was the sort of push that is not only a blatant foul in footy but in every single other team sport. Some might argue that despite the foul, Ricardo should have been in better position to make the save.

Of course, as our pal Frownie is fond of pointing out "If ifs and buts were candies and nuts..." Or put another way, "almost only counts for horseshoes and hand grenades." Had Germany remained at two goals, would the space have been there for Portugal to tie it? Unlikely considering the way Germany dominated play for the first 75 minutes.

The game exposed all of Portugal's greatness and all their faults. Case in point, substitute Nani. Nani is a breathtaking runner, but, as was often the case with Man U. this season, selfish. Too fond of taking on entire team he will often ignore wide-open teammates. He made a few of those wild, fruitless runs against Germany after first coming on, before unleashing that perfect pass from the left flank onto Deco for the second goal.

For all their playmaking ability, the Portuguese were helpless against Germany's superior size and sudden abandonment of the long ball that gave Portugal's D time to fall back into position.

More importantly, for the impartial fan, the game was an absolute thrill to watch. The latter stages of most tournaments are often dull affairs, with powerhouse nations pitted against each other too afraid to commit to attacking footy. Yesterday's game bodes well for an absolutely classic weekend or at least half of it. Speed merchants abound on both sides of the pitch for Holland and Russia. Sunday's Spain-Italy game, well, it has PK's written all over it.

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