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hello all,

Checking in from athens, Greece. I went to the World Cup semi final in Munich - an amazing atmosphere after scalping a ticket. I'll give a full report on my World Cup experience in Germany when I get back from the Greek Islands.

Go Italy. The French are obnoxious.

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Congratulations to Germany for winning the consolation match! I know they would have rather been in the finals, but I think they have a lot to be proud of, and it was fun seeing how into the game their fans were despite the fact that it didn't really count for all that much. They looked very good this year.

I have a suggestion for Portugal: cut the crap. It has become an utter farce and it is harming your play. While you lie writhing on the field and screaming for calls that aren't coming because the referees are onto your tactics, the other team steals the ball and counterattacks. All the whining and flopping is unsportsmanlike and it really does not help your game, evidenced by the fact that you got totally blown out of the water by Germany today. Scolari, enough with the screaming and hopping around and Mark Cuban act. All the complaining gets you nowhere. It just encourages your players to keep up their act. Set a better example and stop acting like a hyperactive youth league coach. And having half your players always on the verge of getting sent off because of yellow card trouble is no way to go through a game. Learn to be more disciplined and less boorish and maybe you'll actually go all the way. It's not like the talent isn't there, it's just being obscured by all this ridiculous flopping and ticky-tack fouls.

Christiano Ronaldo's words after the match. "The referee never gave yellows because Portugal are a small country". What an idiotic thing to say. If the ref had been strong then he and others would have received yellows for diving

Frank, you just realised?

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WTF ZIDANE??!!?!?!?!

France is in total control of this match...the Italians can barely get up and down the field...they were basically resigned to holding out for PKs....

And you deliver a vicious head-butt to Matterazzi's chest because he talked a little trash?!?!?

This is your last match of your career on the World's greatest stage and you get sent off?!?!?! For that?!!?

Zizou you are one of my favorite players, probably the greatest player of your generation, you've acheived everything there is to acheive, won every accolade, an argument can be made that you are the greatest player of all time.

And this is what you do?!?

I'm at a loss. What a sad way to end..

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WTF ZIDANE??!!?!?!?!

France is in total control of this match...the Italians can barely get up and down the field...they were basically resigned to holding out for PKs....

And you deliver a vicious head-butt to Matterazzi's chest because he talked a little trash?!?!?

This is your last match of your career on the World's greatest stage and you get sent off?!?!?! For that?!!?

Zizou you are one of my favorite players, probably the greatest player of your generation, you've acheived everything there is to acheive, won every accolade, an argument can be made that you are the greatest player of all time.

And this is what you do?!?

I'm at a loss. What a sad way to end..

WTF is right. That was just really, really bizarre. I have to think Materazzi said something really offensive. Horrible way for his career to end.

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WTF ZIDANE??!!?!?!?!

France is in total control of this match...the Italians can barely get up and down the field...they were basically resigned to holding out for PKs....

And you deliver a vicious head-butt to Matterazzi's chest because he talked a little trash?!?!?

This is your last match of your career on the World's greatest stage and you get sent off?!?!?! For that?!!?

Zizou you are one of my favorite players, probably the greatest player of your generation, you've acheived everything there is to acheive, won every accolade, an argument can be made that you are the greatest player of all time.

And this is what you do?!?

I'm at a loss. What a sad way to end..

Personally, I loved it. The simplicity of the head-butt was beautiful, and quite effective. I don't advocate violence, but there was something beautiful about that whole sequence. Also, I believe that the red-card call was made after the refs saw the replay on the stadium jumbotron, or at least thats how it seemed from the announcers.

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I don't know...I have trouble finding much beauty in any of this...One of the classiest and greatest players to ever take the pitch goes out in absolute disgrace. Whether the Ref saw the jumbotron or not makes no difference to me, Zidane got what he deserved and let down his teammates and country (and I wanted France to win).

Really, it epitomized a rather ugly and bizarre World Cup.

- Yellow and Red Cards run rampant.

- The brilliant Brazilians fail to show much of anything.

- Diving left and right.

- Penalty kicks abound, in pretty dull, low-scoring matches.

- Injuries and poor performances highlight most of soccers biggest names.

- The winning country, and some of its best players, is/are mired in one of the worst scandals soccer has ever seen.

- The feel-good story of the tournament ends in absolute chaos and disaster.

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I don't know...I have trouble finding much beauty in any of this...One of the classiest and greatest players to ever take the pitch goes out in absolute disgrace. Whether the Ref saw the jumbotron or not makes no difference to me, Zidane got what he deserved and let down his teammates and country (and I wanted France to win).

I'm sure that Zidane was well aware of the consequences of his actions, and is a smart enough individual to have weighed the consequences of his actions. That is where the beauty lies. After the italian held Zidane and talked trash, and kept talking trash, Zidane responded in a non-verbal fashion in which he succinctly and effectively made the Italian aware of his opinion. I have no issue with that. It's not like the Italian was just talking...the Italian player had physically restrained Zidane just previous to this whole sequence.

I make no excuses for Zidane. What he did was, of course, wrong, and the punishment for it was correct. I guess I just identify with the situation, and admire the succinct response from Zidane.

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I don't know...I have trouble finding much beauty in any of this...One of the classiest and greatest players to ever take the pitch goes out in absolute disgrace. Whether the Ref saw the jumbotron or not makes no difference to me, Zidane got what he deserved and let down his teammates and country (and I wanted France to win).

Agreed. I too wanted France to win simply because of all the diving/whining/crying that the Italians have done this World Cup. Pretty sad by Zidane really.

- Yellow and Red Cards run rampant.

- The brilliant Brazilians fail to show much of anything.

- Diving left and right.

- Penalty kicks abound, in pretty dull, low-scoring matches.

- Injuries and poor performances highlight most of soccers biggest names.

- The winning country, and some of its best players, is/are mired in one of the worst scandals soccer has ever seen.

- The feel-good story of the tournament ends in absolute chaos and disaster.

1 - Way too many at times, way too few other times. Unreal.

2 - While they are fun to watch I am glad they didn't win again.

3 - The diving... I don't know what to say. I tried to get a lot of people I know into the World Cup this year and I was embarrased by all the flopping around. That is cheating to the extreme. Kind of like when Alex Rodriguez slapped the ball out of the glove of the Sox player.

4 - Yep. Not enough goals.

5 - Agreed. Also too many people missing matches because of red cards.

6 - It figures that the cheaters would win. My problem with this whole thing is that, besides the scandal, all the other teams are going to see that Italy got to and won the final by flopping all over the place and think, "Hey, they won the World Cup by doing that, maybe we should too!" I don't think this is good for the game at all.

7 - Honestly for me there really was no feel good story. Nothing about this year's Cup felt good at all. England (the team I follow) played horribly, as did the USA and teams expected to win/have a large following like Brazil and Argentina.

All in all I was extremely disappointed with this World Cup but I do look forward to Euro 2008 as well as this years English Premier League starting up next month.

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The brilliant Brazilians fail to show much of anything.

QUOTE]

What do you think was the deal with them?

Overhyped, or just underperformed? Or both?

Some of both, but mainly underperformed and poor coaching.

I think many would be hard-pressed to find a better team (ever), talent for talent than this Brazilian squad.

Certain players are obviously long in the tooth at this point...Roberto Carlos, Cafu, Ronaldo. Others simply played poorly, in particular Ronaldinho.

They didn't play like the Brazil we are used to...they didn't push the pace of the game, seemed to me that they just assumed they were going to score as opposed to actually going out and doing it.

The coach was too stuck on using his older players. I think they are certainly regretting not using Robinho, who was the only one who actually played like a Brazilian. It's pretty tough to accept that they got knocked out without Adriano starting.

I also think they got exposed for not having a controlling midfielder. Ronaldinho and Kaka are exceptional, but both players tend to pushup into the attack. They had difficulty transitioning from defense to offense...

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I'm sure that Zidane was well aware of the consequences of his actions, and is a smart enough individual to have weighed the consequences of his actions. That is where the beauty lies. After the italian held Zidane and talked trash, and kept talking trash, Zidane responded in a non-verbal fashion in which he succinctly and effectively made the Italian aware of his opinion. I have no issue with that. It's not like the Italian was just talking...the Italian player had physically restrained Zidane just previous to this whole sequence.

I make no excuses for Zidane. What he did was, of course, wrong, and the punishment for it was correct. I guess I just identify with the situation, and admire the succinct response from Zidane.

I mean, that's how you feel. I understand.

But I doubt how smart he actually is when you weigh the consequence of his actions. So he was held...big freaking deal. He's given out and taken a lot worse. I'm sure he's also said and heard a lot worse too.

Also, I don't know how aware of the consequences he was since its being reported that he was in tears in the tunnel.

If this was a group phase game, heck, if they had a lead...I could possibly agree with your point. But his actions sent his country and teammates reeling. They worked 4 years to get to this point. Some of these players will never play in a World Cup again. Some will probably never have a chance to win a World Cup again. This was the last ride for this group. Vieria, Zidane, Makelele, Barthez are basically done. Henry, Thuram, Gallas, Sagnol will be well past their prime and possibly on the bench for the next cup.

There is a greater good, and, if as you suggest, Zidane was aware of actions and consequences and STILL did it...well, I have a tough time admiring anyone whose priority is proving a point to a little trash-talking Italian.

What if Jorge Posada jawed a little bit at David Ortiz during "Game 4" and Ortiz decided to head-butt him in the chest resulting in an ejection?

What if Cal Ripken broke his streak by doing something like this?

Would you applaud these things and say, "Hey, he had to make his point."?

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I am happy to admit my ignorance about the finer points of soccer. I don't understand the finer points the way that many of you do. I have learned a lot from reading things here, and I appreciate that. I have learned a lot from watching a bunch of the World Cup games, and I am happy about that too.

From the eyes of somebody who is not a soccer fanatic, here are the main things that stick with me:

1. I am surprised that good teams are not better at ball control.

2. I have seen mucho athleticism that has impressed me. (At the same time, I have not seen anything that exceeds the athleticism I see from great plays at SS or 2B.)

3. I think the game would be a better game (from my point of view) if they didn't have the population of a small town cluttering things up in front of the goal all the time. I think there are just too many people there all at once, so players have no room to be great athletes, and precious little chance to execute like a team. No wonder nobody scores. All the people-clutter makes scoring like trying to thread a needle in the dark during a hurricane in the middle of rush hour.

4. I think this shootout business is an exceedingly crappy way to resolve important games. So far, the most prevalent justification I've gotten (both here and from UK friends) is "It doesn't happen that much." No, it only happens a lot when games are *really* important. I think it is truly appalling. There must be a better way.

Even if you think my perceptions have no merit, I still say, "Thanks to all for the good things I learned here."

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The brilliant Brazilians fail to show much of anything.

QUOTE]

What do you think was the deal with them?

Overhyped, or just underperformed? Or both?

Definitely underperformed. In terms of quality, they are every bit as good as advertised.

I think they were just guilty of being a little too relaxed and thinking that all they needed to do was show up and they would win it. If they had really applied themselves and played with hunger they would have rolled over every other team in this tournament.

ejf's point about them lacking a holding midfield player is slightly off the mark, as they have Gilberto Silva who is an excellent defensive midfielder and was at many times the only player of theirs who didn't attack. However, they didn't put him on the field during some of the games and that was a tactical flaw that worked against them.

As regards Zidane, what can you say? Only one word - STUPID. I don't think it's a case of knowing exactly what he was doing but I don't think it was a case of not thinking either. He got caught up in the heat of the moment in a very intense competition and it just happened. Things like that happen in sport, but generally to less experienced players who can't control themselves. For a player like Zidane who has done and seen it all and was carrying the hopes of his country in his final game.....just about the worst thing he could have done.

One of the greatest players of all time, undoubtedly, but he has put a nasty stain on his career by going out like that. It's a pity because the world will never see another Zidane and yet this is how many people will remember him.

Congratulations to Italy, who did not play the best of games tonight but were magnificent at penalties. Normally they crumble like England but tonight they were magnificent and absolutley flawless in holding their nerve and putting the game away. I was rooting for them like crazy and it's great to see them pull it off.

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What if Jorge Posada jawed a little bit at David Ortiz during "Game 4" and Ortiz decided to head-butt him in the chest resulting in an ejection?

Honestly, if this happened, I believe that I would begin efforts to raise money for a 100' pure gold statue of Ortiz on the National Mall.

What if Cal Ripken broke his streak by doing something like this?

Would you applaud these things and say, "Hey, he had to make his point."?

1) I didn't applaud anything.

2) I never said he had to make his point.

3) I never even said that Zidane's actions were justified or even correct.

4) What I said was: "I don't advocate violence, but there was something beautiful about that whole sequence."*

Look, I'm not going to lie and pretend the whole thing pissed me off. I enjoyed it and I thought there was beauty in the simplicity of Zidane's response.

* Note - I obviously said more than just that one phrase, but that was the gist of my post and my point.

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I am happy to admit my ignorance about the finer points of soccer. I don't understand the finer points the way that many of you do. I have learned a lot from reading things here, and I appreciate that. I have learned a lot from watching a bunch of the World Cup games, and I am happy about that too.

From the eyes of somebody who is not a soccer fanatic, here are the main things that stick with me:

1. I am surprised that good teams are not better at ball control.

2. I have seen mucho athleticism that has impressed me. (At the same time, I have not seen anything that exceeds the athleticism I see from great plays at SS or 2B.)

3. I think the game would be a better game (from my point of view) if they didn't have the population of a small town cluttering things up in front of the goal all the time. I think there are just too many people there all at once, so players have no room to be great athletes. No wonder nobody scores. All the people-clutter makes scoring like trying to thread a needle, in the dark, during a hurricane.

4. I think this shootout business is an exceedingly crappy way to resolve important games. So far, the most prevalent justification I've gotten (both here and from UK friends) is "It doesn't happen that much." No, it only happens a lot when games are *really* important. I think it is truly appalling. There must be a better way.

Even if you think my perceptions have no merit, I still say, "Thanks to all for the good things I learned here."

1. They have absolutely outstanding ball control. They can do absolutely anything they want to with their feet and a ball. The reason you don't see it so much during a game is because they generally have 2 opposing players rushing at them as they get the ball and are under alot of pressure. But trust me, the control they have would boggle your mind.

2. SS and 2b are very athletic positions but they require not even half the athleticism of being a soccer player. Soccer players are some of the most finely tuned athletes in the world.

3. It's not supposed to be easy to score. The reason why it's so great to score a goal is because it's very difficult to do. In any case, not all teams defend like that but even if they did, it takes a tremendous amount of skill and precision to get the ball in the back of the net. That's what's so great about it.

4. This is only the second time in history a world cup final has gone to penalty shootouts. It does not happen alot. And it actually makes for a really exciting and tense finish to a game. The extra time in the game tonight was quite boring because neither team had any gas left. I'll take penalties over that anyday. They are the ultimate measure of nerve and confidence, which are two of the greatest attributes an athlete can have.

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