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Saturday, July 01, 2006

7/1 World Cup of Coffee

2 more quarterfinal matches on tap. Unfortunately I'm on the road heading to a week at the beach with the extended family. But I am plotting how to steal match time--I think ESPN is replaying France-Brazil tomorrow night. Maybe I'll strategically plan lunch with Becks and Figo. It's all coming together. Speaking of coming together...

First, I didn't get to see the Italy match--just checked on it via the web. I will say that Italy will give the Germans a terrific battle in the semis. It will be nice to see these European titans go at it. Critical for Italy today: finally getting Toni going. They will need his goals if they are to hoist the trophy. But it was a fun extended lunch with the boys at the pub today to watch Argentina-Germany. Wow, what a turn of events for Argentina. They come out with a solid gameplan and execute it to perfection. They dominate possession, thwart Germany from settling into any attacking rhythm, and wait for a chance to come to them. 1-0, closing in on 80 minutes. And then the goalie gets hurt. Huge, huge turn of events. They have to waste a sub. The backup gives up a goal. They go to penalties with a backup keeper, who looked overwhelmed. (Note: like Crockett calling drug dealers "The Colombian" on Miami Vice, I'm just going with "the goalie" and "the backup." Mainly b/c I'm too tired to remember or look up names. Of course, if I had used this time to look them up instead of typing this note...) Argentina Coach Pekerman has already resigned and is coming under severe criticism for his substitutions. Taking Riquelme out and yet still leaving Messi on the bench particularly sting. Germany was amazingly resilient as always and Jens Lehmann came up with an outstanding save to secure the victory. He guessed right on every kick and stopped two. Is he stealing signs or something? Germany advances. As for today...

This is a huge match for both teams, obviously, but it feels particularly so for England due to expectations. They haven't gotten past the quarters since 1990 and haven't won the Cup since 1966. England hasn't played particularly well or found the formation or line-up that clicks. But they still have loads of individual talent. It looks like Sven will go with the 4-5-1 with Rooney up front. Gerrard, Lampard and Cole will plunder forward from the midfield with Hargreaves playing the defensive midfielder. Beckham will line up for free kicks, of course. Will it be enough to generate goals and a victory against a talented Portugal team? They will be missing Deco and Costinha at the very least, with Christiano Ronaldo struggling with an injury as well. But they do have Big Phil Scolari calling the shots and the wily veteran Figo making big plays. Up until the last 24 hours, I was ready to pick Portugal. So much negativity--both in terms of style of performance and general vibe--in the England camp. Portugal will not fear England. But just today I finally feel comfortable (gulp) going with England. It's a gut feeling about what will be an intense, close match. I'm going to go with Wayne Rooney making the difference, with help from Steven Gerrard. England 2 Portugal 1.

This rematch of the 1998 final promises to be entertaining. Brazil have been on cruise control so far, finding the net with ease and managing smoke and mirrors on their vulnerable back. Ronaldo is scoring goals, Ronaldinho is being the consummate team player, and the aging defense creaks along. They still are the favorites for this tournament. But something tells me Les Bleus are going to give them everything they can handle today. I look for the French midfield to play physical and close out the Brazilians early. Thierry Henry will test the Brazilian defense if given the ball at the right time. (As lovely a match as Zidane had against Spain, he still slows down the attack and nullifies Henry's speed advantage.) France needs some serious discipline and concentration in defense. I think what ultimately will undo them is Barthez between the sticks. He's due for a catastrophe. Now that I've said that he will save 30 shots today. Brazil 2 France 1.

Too much packing to do a Daily Digest today--sorry folks! I'll be checking in and posting, however, as we get through the quarters, to the semis, and then the final. Well, at least when I'm not taking my Irish tan to the beach...

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