Everyone seems to have an opinion on this, so I thought i’d join the bandwagon.
Yes, I watched most of the games. Yes, I believe that Australia got robbed because it was a smaller footballing nation. Yes, I think the refereeing has been appalling all-around and that FIFA should really do something about it.
Italy vs Australia – Italy went a man down in the form of Materazzi, in the end a pivotal player in the world cup. The send off was not a fair one. Australia dominated possession but failed to score against a 10-man Italian side. The Italians looked far more dangerous when they were attacking. Grosso, another pivotal player in the world cup, went down for a penalty which was another characteristically shocking refereeing decision. Totti made no mistake with the penalty and that was that.
Holland vs Portugal – Truly ridiculous game, enough cards for a casino. I can’t believe they let this guy referee the final.
France vs Brazil – replay of the 1998 World Cup final, but not quite. Zidane leads an older and more experienced team to a comprehensive victory over the defending champions. Brazil haven’t looked the part all tournament, but then again neither have Les Bleus. France found form in their match against a fancied Spanish side and thumped them 3-1. Cool class wins the day over fancy individual flare. Zidane can do no wrong when he places a beautiful free kick onto the foot of Thierry Henry for the game’s only goal
Italy vs Germany – Fairly close all around, Italy probably slightly stronger throughout. Germany fought gallantly but from the starting whistle for extra-time, there was little doubt that Italy would emerge victors. A class finish from Grossi sneaks just inside the far-post and an easy finish on a counter coming from Del Piero puts the nails in the coffin.
Italy vs France – Quite close at the start, slight advantage to Italy. Lots of stoppages including what looked like a concussion for Henry. Very early penalty, another questionable refereeing decision. Zidane strikes true for his third of the tournament. Materazzi puts a thundering header into the goal off a corner kick to equalise. Second half much more one-sided, in favour of Les Bleus who are dressed in Les Blancs ‘away’ uniform. Good play from France unable to break the Italian defence. Extra time and France are very dominant, it seems only a matter of time before a goal is scored. Zizou is playing beautifully and is lifting his side. A clever one-two sees a header rocketing off Zizou’s head towards goal only to be saved by possibly the world’s current geatest goalkeeper – Buffon. A brilliant strike which took a brilliant save. Then disaster – Materazzi provokes Zidane into doing the unthinkable, he headbutts Materazzi in the chest and puts him on the ground. Another thumping header, the ball is nowhere in sight and the red card is shown. Zidane leaves, the French are a man down yet they still dominate the attack. The Italians are waiting for the penalty shoot-out. After 120 minutes of play the Italians become the first team to score 5 from 5 penalty shots with Grosso being the hero who shoots the 5th. Trezeguet, the golden-goal hero of Euro 2000, hits the crossbar and breaks the hearts of the French nation.
This result was particularly unjust, not only because I like France, not only because I’m a big fan of Zinedine Zidane, not only because I don’t like Italy for how they won against Australia… no. I didn’t like this result because this was one of the games that I watched where the team which was clearly better on the day did not win.