Monday, July 10, 2006

An Unfortunate End for a Great Cup

(Sorry, Deron, for the overlap, as well as for my tardiness with this post.)

Sadly, it seems likely that the 2006 World Cup will be remembered more for this sad bit of childishness than for anything else. In case you missed the game, here's the clip (from BBC1, I think):

For a pretty entertaining 'with sound' version, click here.
Without Zidane, France went into the penalty shootout short of their best penalty-kick guy, and lost to Italy. As for Zidane, I agree with DGL's analysis . . . inexcusable.

But Italy (despite some dives) did play well--Zidane's goal in the final was the only one scored against Italy by a non-Italian. And they beat Germany, so at least there's that.

Despite the dives and rough play, a good Cup overall.
Some highlights (by no means exhaustive; feel free to mention oversights):
-Italy's last-minute win over Germany (highlights here)
-Ronaldo's record-setting goal (see below)
-the Argentina-Mexico game (highlights here)
-the (sorry, Albiceleste haters) Argentine dominance of Serbia-Montenegro (see below)
-Shaka Hislop! (see below)


  1. The head-butt was unforgivable, definitely. But the question is, was it an act so stupid as to be without precedent in the history of sport?

    My knowledge of sports other than basketball is limited, but I can't think of any parallel.

  2. More opinion on Zidane ...

    Robert Weintraub, Slate:
    "Casual fans who bought into the nonstop Zidane hype are likely unaware that this is hardly his first bit of on-pitch thuggishness ... This was Zizou in full -— you can't take the genius in the midfield without also taking the occasional bout of anger. If it cost his team the World Cup, well, they wouldn't have been in that position anyway."

    Aleksandar Hemon, New Republic:
    "... (T)he incident made the rest of the game anticlimactic and left such a bitter taste that I have a hard time getting my head around it. The head butt was such a moment of insanity that it makes the World Cup pale in comparison. For the way Zizou ended his career was downright tragic -- no one but himself could undermine his greatness as severely and heartbreakingly, precisely because he is -- or, now, was -- so great. It was not unlike watching suicide live. I cannot imagine how he might feel."

    And a contrarian position, from SI's "Dr. Z":
    "Writers all over the world are competing with themselves to heap scorn on France's greatest player. You know something? I don't blame him for getting sore. Almost every time I could find him on the screen, he had someone tugging at his shirt, tripping him or messing with him in some sneaky way. ... The problem is he doesn't hit the canvas as the rest of those prima donnas do. So the ref must figure nothing is happening. Sure, he should have held off on the head butt, but to put the defeat of his team on his shoulders is a reach."

    Needless to say, I disagree with this last statement. Every great player in any sport has to put up with a lot of b.s. and baiting from opponents; the test of his mettle is how he responds.

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  4. I'm with you, DGL, being a star means taking everyone else's best--and often cheapest--shots.

    I've seen a report that Materazzi made a racist remark (which Materazzi denies), but even that is no justification. It is, on the other hand, possibly punishable by both Germany and FIFA . . .

    Again, though, Zidane made a pretty silly mistake.

    Kind of cool that he got the Golden Ball anyway, no?

  5. I see that some, including Maradona, are arguing that Italy's Cannavaro should have won the Ball; I'll leave that to others more qualified.

    I'm not surprised about the racist slur charge. You'd assume only something that inflammatory could possibly cause Z to lose control like that. But given that he has a history of such incidents, it also wouldn't surprise me if Z were merely throwing out a phony cover story.

    If Matterazzi is guilty, I hope you aren't implying that there might be a state-imposed penalty, as in this recent case. I realize Germany wants to dissociate itself from Nazism, but repressing free speech ain't the way to do it.

  6. Well, were there a state sanction, I certainly wouldn't approve of it (if anyone's asking), but it may be within the realm of possibility.

    However, I think it's only speech that 'incites racial hatred' that's punishable. . . .

    German law--unfortunately, though perhaps understandably--is quite severe, but making a remark in a football match is not quite publishing a work that denies the Holocaust.

    Before the breakdown, 'Zizou' certainly made his team better, and was clearly among the best players througout the Cup. Three goals and one assist is a pretty good line in a tournament where the highest numbers were 5 (Germany's Klose) and 4 (Argentina's Riquelme).
    Besides, what sweet irony that he should win the Ball and lose the Cup . . .

  7. Bittersweet irony?

    Maybe Materazzi denied the Holocaust. Maybe he repeated James Watt's comment about "a black, a woman, two Jews, and a cripple."

    Either way, the authorities should stay out of it.

  8. According to the AP, Materazzi admits insulting Zidane but denies calling him a "terrorist" (which could have been interpreted as a swipe at Z's Algerian heritage).

    Materazzi: "I'm not cultured and I don't even know what an Islamic terrorist is."

    Reminiscent of Fat Tony's response when Chief Wiggum accuses him of hijacking cigarette trucks: "What's a truck?"

    "Don't play dumb with me, Fat Tony!"

  9. Rodrigo pointed me to this video of Materazzi, which doesn't help his case much:

  10. I know this is probably wrong on many levels, but you should check out the funny Zizou post on Aaron's blog.

  11. Some combination of Z's head-butting with Materazzi's cheap shots (modeled on Rodrigo's video highlights) would make for the bloodiest game ever. It would make "Grand Theft Auto San Andreas" look like Pong.

  12. More from the AP:

    "Zidane did not specify exactly what Italian defender Marco Materazzi said that enraged him, but that it was insulting to his sister and mother. ..."

    "... The France captain said he felt no regret for his act, 'because that would mean (Materazzi) was right to say all that.'"