Italy has done it!
Well, apart from the jubiliations of the Italians, there is a special reason for me to jubiliate on the victory of Italy in the World Cup finals: This is the first time that a sporting prophecy made by yours truly has come true. Believe it or not, while everyone around was betting on Brazil or England or Germany to win the trophy, it was my helpless self who was going for Italy. I wish my tongue works wonders for India in a similar way in next year’s World Cup cricket.
Well, it was no secret that Italy’s road to the semi-finals, atleast, was quite rosy. It got a fairly easy group, though I must say beating Czech Republic 2-0 was a bit of an achievement, because it was officially ranked No.2 after Brazil (though it amazes me how, maybe the jury was 80% Czech). The match against Australia was a bit of a scare. Though I was confident that the Australians were never going to score any field goals against Italy, the possibility of a freak penalty was always there. The penalty did come, finally, but it was on Italy’s side, and Totti netted it gleefully. Ukraine was a gonner….another case of weaker teams coming up from easy groups while strong teams like Argentina suffered, though they deserved to be in the top four. The Ukraine game was important in the sense that the Azzurri discovered their new-found ability to attack the opposition, unlike their normal “defend-and-counter-attack” game, courtesy Luca Toni.
And then came what can be called the “game of the tournament”, the semifinal clash against an ever-improving Germany, which was backed by more than 60,000 hollering fans. That game was a classic, with control see-sawing from one side to another as the game progressed. And it had a classic finish : goals in the 118th and 120th minutes, almost heartbreaking for the German fans.
France was getting stronger and stronger with each game, primarily because of Zidane, who had become their mainstay in the midfield. Henry was lacklustre in the tournament, but nobody would dare to underestimate him. So also with some hard-working players like Malouda and Ribery. Still, I thought that France did not have it in them to break down the super-solid Italian defence, consisting of Cannavarro, Nesta (though he didn’t play), Zambrotta and of course the goalie, Buffon. But it did, and guess what, it was a penalty! From there on, it required a lot of character for the Italians to pull themselves up and equalize, which was against their normal game.
Finally, I thought Italy did well to hold on France through normal and extra time, coz France dominated the midfield throughout the match. Zidane’s sending-off was more of a psychological blow to France than anything else. In the penalties, someone had to commit a mistake, and unfortunately for the French fans, it was David Trezeguet, substituted for Henry.
So that is how my prophecy came true, the first time in my life!!!