Best Goal: Fabio Quagliarella's superb chip against Slovakia. Such coolness! Such precision! Such class! Under such pressure! Runner-up: Sebastian Abreu's penalty in the shoot-out against Ghana. Audacious and nerveless in equal measure. Reminiscent of Panenka vs. West Germany in the 1976 European Championships. Tournament Hero: Luis Suarez. A man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Cunning and lithe in attack, Suarez also excelled in defense. His handball in the last minute of extra-time against Ghana gave his country a glimmer of a chance. What more could any player do in such circumstances?
There are a number of theories for why Italy slinked out of the World Cup so shamefully. That the team was old; that coach Marcello Lippi could have picked better attackers; that the Juventus-based central defense with Cannavaro and Chiellini was shaky, and dismally proved it with their club all season long, and so on. In my view, while these criticisms are all in some respects true, the real problems lie elsewhere, particularly in two places: tactically, the absence of anything we might call an effective midfield; and, more generally, the declining standard of Italian football.
I’ve been reading Rob Hughes for many years, always with interest, but a recent piece of his in the New York Times (from his On Soccer column in the International Herald Tribune) made me wonder about the pretzel logic that can sometimes accompany political correctness. The theme of his article published on June 15 was that Germany, thanks to its multicultural team, was displaying a new vigor, while Italy, top-heavy with, well, uh, Italians, was on the skids: There seems to be a new, vibrant, powerful Germany: a side whose players are too young to fear defeat and whose diverse ethnic backgroun
The World Cup is but a couple of weeks away, and, if you are not trembling with anticipation, now is the time to start. There has never been a World Cup like the one about to take place in nine South African cities: For the first time ever, the greatest soccer tournament is being held in Africa.