The World Cup Final
There are so many things one could say about this Final. First of all, is there a more dissatisfying resolution in all of sports than penalty kicks at the end of a World Cup Final? You might as well flip a coin - the final result would just as accurately reflect which team deserved to win. More on that in another post.
Did Zizou's red card cost the French the match? Of course not. Les Bleus dominated the run of play the entire match, especially the second half and extra time. But they hadn't scored a goal in 105 minutes, and they hadn't scored anything other than a penalty in 243 minutes. I don't think it's quite reasonable to expect them to score in 10 more minutes with Zidane on the pitch, do you?
And was there ever any doubt about who would win on penalty kicks between Italy (with Buffon in goal) and France (with Barthez)? France has won a World Cup, won a European Cup, and been to another World Cup Final DESPITE Barthez, who is, at best, an adventure in goal. Buffon had 27 saves during Italy's 7 matches this World Cup, compared to 14 for Barthez - almost twice as many. Even if Zidane stays on the pitch and buried his OTPK, Trezeguet is still shooting in the first 5. The only thing that surprises me (mildly) about the result of the penalty kicks is that it was a French mistake, rather than a Buffon save, that made the difference. There's no way Barthez was making a save.
The real shame is that Italy looked completely impotent on offense, except during set pieces. According to the stats, they had 5 shots all match, only three of those on goal. Did any of those come during the run of play? Not that I recall. They did look very dangerous on corners and free kicks, but it would be very sad indeed for the World Cup if future champions were built based on a packed in defense and an offense 100% dependent on set pieces.
I find the 'terrorist' story completely believable. In fact, knowing Zidane's Algerian ancestry, the moment he head-butted Materazzi I assumed that the Italian had made some sort of terrorist crack. What else is going to provoke that response? Materazzi's denial in the Italian papers is both ridiculous and hilarious:
It is absolutely not true, I did not call him a terrorist. I'm ignorant. I don't even know what the word means.
So, let me get this straight... your defense is that you are a complete idiot? Now I'm that much more angry with Zizou. To viciously attack a complete, drooling mental incompetent. How dare he?
What's truly amazing is that Zidane picked this moment to lose his cool. It's international soccer - if Thierry Henry head-butted every opponent who threw the N-word at him, he'd have brain damage by now. This can't possibly be the first time someone called Zidane the T-word, right? Why blow up 10 minutes away from one of the most glory-filled retirements in the history of sport? Even if they lose the match on OTPKs (which I say they would have), he gets the Golden Ball, he scores three goals in World Cup final matches - he is without doubt the greatest player of his generation. Now, instead, he's the guy who head-butted someone in the World Cup Final. That's the tragedy.
I'm certain that we have not heard the last of this. So far Zidane has remained silent on the subject, but he'll tell his side soon.