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Italy it is

I am not sure how to feel about it, but once again, things went almost exactly as I thought they would. The outcomes didn't happen that way, though. The France v Germany match was pretty much like I thought, mostly tactical with no moments of individual brilliance from either side. I have consistently held the view that Zidane is 2 years past his sell-by date and his wizardry with the ball is mere showmanship. He does not have the stamina to make threatening runs at the opposition all night and his teammates are all crap. This was proved yet again in the match with Portugal where Christiano Ronaldo was the most aggressive and dangerous player on view from both sides whil Thierry Henry was reduced to parade his excellent dribbling skills but to no noticeable effect.

In the end it was one moment of stupidity from the Portuguese defence that cost them a place in the finals. Although the blame lies squarely at their own door. They had so many chances at goal that everyone stopped bothering to count. They could've scored atleast half dozen goals that night, French defending was that bad, and yet they didn't score even one.

The Germany vs Italy match was a different kettle of fish altogether. Every now and then, you see a match that exceeds your expectations, sets the pulse racing and warms the cockles of your heart to an overwhelming degree.This World cup semi final was one such match. Right from the outset, both teams played a very open, very attractive, attacking form of football. While Germany, usually the dour west European beacon of technical football, was intent on proving that they could be incisive as well, the Italian lads were keen to give it their all.

The defenders were inspired all night, Buffon stood like a wall and the forwards were motivated and spurred into turning in a performance worthy of true champions by Totti, one of the most under-rated yet most influential player in this world cup. Totti was the talisman that Italy needed so desperately, the mercurial master of ceremonies, the director of on-field operations, the magician with the tricks, and the king of the Azzurri did not disappoint. I have no hesitation in claiming that Italy would have been blown away by Germany if not for Totti.

It is a credit to Germany's industriousness and sheer willpower that the match remained evenly poised for all of regular time and almost all of the extra time as well. Alas, as has been shown so often, the most well meaning of intents and hard work have been undone by one moment of sheer magic. Italy's first strike 90 seconds from penalties, something they had to avoid being so bad at them and Germany being perfect, was one such moment. It did not come through any plan, it was not pre-meditated, it was instinctive, it was magical, it was an embodiment of everything that is good about football and it sunk a nation's hopes.

Germany were devastated. And they should be. They had promised so much, like England, and looked capable and willing to make good on those promises, unlike England. But it was not to be. This was one match where you did not want anyone to loose, where the true winner was football. It was a match where I could feel the pain, the anguish, the tears of each German that night and I am sure, so would have all football fans around the world. Don't worry my friends, German football is in safe hands under Klinsmann and he will take it to further heights. Euro 2008 seems ripe for the taking. All the best !

That leaves the minor matter of the final. France vs Italy. No contest in my mind. Italy it is, Italy it must be. They have waited too long, they have deserved it for too long, they need it right now more than any other country has ever needed it. The only way the great Italian tradition of football can be salvaged from the corruption crisis currently engulfing the Serie A is by winning the big one and wash all the sins away. I just hope they play like the way they did against Germany. If they do, France can do nothing but watch. I just hope.

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