July 9th, 2006

breaking bad

Germany vs Portugal

Is there any point to the third place play-off? Not really. Nevertheless the Germans gave it some welly, and thrashed Portugal 3-1. I merely note that the booing of Christian Ronaldo was loud throughout the match from the German crowd. I doubt if Ronaldo will come back to Manchester United now.

Portugal were still diving. I can't believe it. The officials appear to have developed selective blindness to it, which is the only way. I agree with Martin O'Neill that it is very difficult to control diving with yellow cards, as it's almost impossible be certain someone is faking. Look at Owen - he undoubtedly fell without being touched, and he definitely wasn't faking. I still think that poor boy may never play again - they are now saying a year out minimum.

I was quite taken aback by the comments I got a few days ago which attributed the failings of the Portuguese team to Portugal as a country and a nation. I don't think this is the case as the playing style has obviously been decided as a tactic, and I believe will be abandoned in the long run, perhaps because it has exposed a flaw in the rules or the way of refereeing which will be corrected. I am reminded of the bodyline bowling dispute between Australia and England in the 1930s (where England were at fault).

Bodyline bowlers deliberately aimed the cricket ball at the bodies of batsmen... This tactic caused several injuries to Australian players and led to ill feeling between the two national teams. The controversy eventually spilled into the diplomatic arena. Over the next two decades, several laws of cricket were changed to prevent this kind of tactic being used again.

I think there are a small number of very broad footballing styles, and they at least in part set by what is socially acceptable (and deemed entertaining) by the paying crowds within broad geographical regions. For instance I think in some countries the crowds will stand for a more defensive style of play. I agree this is very touchy, and risky to talk about, because it can shade into nationalism and racism. I also think it is a very interesting subject when countries from all over the world come together to play.
breaking bad


There were dull stretches in the World Cup Final, but the head-butt by Zidane on Materazzi was extraordinary and shocking. This was his last ever act as a footballer.

Interesting article on Zidane from 2004, in the Observer.

'One of the theories about Zidane as a player is that he is driven by an inner rage. His football is elegant and masterful, charged with technique and vision. But he can still erupt into shocking violence that is as sudden as it is inexplicable.'

Many people are speculating that he was responding to a racial taunt. Zidane is not an Arab, but a Berber, a minority persecuted even within Algeria.

Zidane's occasional violence may well be a product of this internal conflict: the French-Algerian who is for ever suspended between cultures. But it is equally likely that, although in public he presents a serene and smiling face, he is underneath it all every bit the same hard nut he had to be to survive the mean streets of La Castellane.

In other news, the Italian players' handsome-lessons continue to pay off.