Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The Usual Suspects

This World Cup went through its "Rocky I & II" phase, when tales of gritty, hearty, colorful underdogs abounded. C'mon, you Soca Warriors! Allez Sparrowhawks! USA! USA!

Then, thanks to the referees, it entered something of a "Casablanca"-meets-"Dog Day Afternoon" reality, a realm of violence, intrigue and incompetent officials barging around issuing comically ineffectual orders.

Now, though, the final eight resembles nothing so much as a formula heist film in which a bunch of aging, veteran crooks get together to pull One Last Job. The whackings of Ghana and Australia (and Suisse, too, I guess) took out the last real outsider hopes, leaving a bracket that just about any World Cup in the last half-century could have produced. Italia! Portugal! Eng-er-lund! Brasil! Argentina! Ze Germans! Les Bleus! And, of course, the pale, unsettlingly skinny ghost of the Soviet Union in the form of Ukraine, which always provided a huge chunk of the great CCCP squads that regularly made deep runs back in the day.

So much for the underdog, and for every continent besides Europe and South America. When the World Cup gets serious, apparently only one script will do.

1 comment:

Dan said...

I agree that an English win, especially on German soil, after 40 years represents vindication. I also think that with the current scandal in Italian soccer might make Forza Azzuri a likely choice in the Redemption Cup.

The way I see it, though, is that England and Brazil meet in the semis, whence Rooney and friends get drubbed. That fills one finals spot -- and the only redemption there, as my Brazilian friends put it, is that Brazil has nothing else in the world to cheer about; although you would think that beautiful samba girls in thongs are reasonable consolation.

But my crystal (meth) ball on the other bracket is hazy. Can anybody beat the Germans, hmmmm? Let's say Argentina does so, and Italy has a good chance to beat Ukraine. Do Totti, Luca and company emerge with a recipe for success? I doubt it. Meanwhile, if Argentina makes it past the Krauts, I give the semi finals to the sons of Maradona.

Barring another Hand of God episode, however, odds remain high that Brazil still wins the final. No need to watch, I guess. Still, as they say... on any given Sunday.