The World Cup is over. Life returns to normalcy; the Italians return home to a glorious welcome; men return to work, and TV remotes to women. Comparing one tournament to another doesn’t really take us anywhere. The World Cup is a self-contained event, and to derive pleasure from it, it is better to look at it in isolation, and enjoy the great moments that it has produced. New heroes, new villains, new records…
There were two important moments in this World Cup, two “points of inflection”, to derive a term from mathematics. One was noticeable, the other, I assume. And both these moments happened in the second round. The first was Franck Ribery’s brilliant run past Iker Casillas to score France’s equalizer. This came after David Villa had struck a penalty to put the Spaniards in front. France was in poor form till then, and had barely managed to scrape through to the knock-out phase. That goal galvanised the Gauls, and it took them all the way to Berlin.
The other important moment was dubious penalty decision that went in favour of the Italians against Guus Hiddink’s Australia. The Azzuri, who generally find themselves at the wrong end of such decisions, grabbed this lifeline with both hands. Totti stepped in to convert, and Italy hasn’t looked back since that moment.It was a moment of truth for the Italians. Faced with an uncertain future back home, tagged as under-achievers, and with very little self-belief, this team could have faltered at the very first hurdle. Yet, like a batsman who knows that he is in for a big hundred when a close lbw decision is not given or a straightforward catch is grassed at the outset, this Italian side surmounted every single test from then on to keep their date with Dame Fortune.
Winners, losers et al
Zidane was awarded the Golden Ball. I would have thought Cannavaro was the more impressive of the two. This decision also outlines the general inequity in the game. That those who play in attacking positions are in the money and in the spotlight always. I can’t remember any defender winning the FIFA World Footballer of the Year award. Paolo Maldini came second sometime in the mid-90s.
Ivory Coast were the most unlucky of all the sides that bowed out after the first round. They played such excellent football that had they been placed in any other group, they would have progressed to the knock-out phase. Ghana played exciting football, beating the Czechs against all odds, but were unlucky to walk right into Brazil.
The match of the tournament was Germany v/s Italy. It was worthy of a final. The final itself was quite competitive.
Italy walked away with the trophy, deserved winners. But the real winners are the people of Germany, who have, by all accounts, made this World Cup “a time to make friends”. Thank you, Deutschland!
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