ITALY-3 UKRAINE-0– To be honest, the former Soviet republic were never ever in this one at all, and they will be happy to have gone this far. Interesting comparisons can be drawn to Ireland’s adventure in 1990, when we too won our second round game on penalties after a 0-0 draw only to go and lose to the Italians in the quarter-finals. I feel the Ukranians’ pain, and I will have a Chicken Kiev in their honour. It’s always a relief to see a team’s pre-tournament predicted star shine in at least one match, and Luca Toni did just that [see pic] on the night here to see the Azzuri safely through to a semifinal with the hosts.
BRAZIL-0 FRANCE-1– Much like England, the holders Brazil got this far without being properly tested, but my God, did the French make up for that in this game and then some. It should have been at least 3-0. Zinedine Zidane gave his illustrious opposition a masterclass in how to command a ball at his feet, and his teammates rose to the occasion with him. In the end it was his first ever assist to Thierry Henry [pic] that won the day. It was a delight to see Les Bleus return to their 1998-2000 form when they were virtually unbeatable – this was something that few experts predicted going into this tournament. If they play like this the rest of the way, they will be adding a second star to their jerseys for sure.
PORTUGAL-0 FRANCE-1– For the 90 minutes it was a drab dull encounter, but anyone with even a passing knowledge of football would have been rooted to this contest throughout nonetheless. Zidane was on a yellow card and since he was to retire from football altogether after the World Cup, you were on tenderhooks whenever he went for a challenge hoping it would not end that way. Luckily it didn’t and he proved the hero in the end, showing the English how to take a penalty against Ricardo by coolly slotting it home with minimum effort after Carvalho fell for Henry’s trickery and brought him down. I was glad to see the Portuguese fall at this hurdle – they played as though they felt they had done enough by getting past England, and in the end it was yet another fruitless campaign for their so-called “Golden Generation” – I wonder how long it will be before we see them go this far again.
all photos courtesy of www.bbc.co.uk
I don’t want to predict the score of the 3rd place playoff on Saturday night between Germany and Portugal because it is quite possibly the most pointless high profile contest in any sport. It’s a throwback to the origins of this tournament from back in the 30s when they modelled the event on the Olympics and thus felt compelled to award a bronze medal. Nowadays the Greek festival comes a poor second in popularity to the World Cup and perhaps a charity match featuring players from all of the 30 nations that did not make the final or maybe even a celebrity challenge match could take its place. My prediction for the final is 2-1 to France aet.