I spent my 4th watching the Italy 2 : Germany 0 match. Coming from someone who displays a hint of patriotism only when the USMNT or USWNT play, or to a much lesser degree, during the Olympics, this should not come as a surprise.
This match was good, even if the result was not to my liking. I was not able to accurately predict even one of the teams in the final. However, I at least accurately predicted that:
I see Germany as being a very serious contendor. I expect them to make it to the final, or if they play badly, to the third place match.That at least came true; Germany did make it to the 3rd place match. They played very well for the first 90. So did Italy. There were close calls, the intensity was palpable, and the refs did not make any dubious calls (in my highly subjective opinion, that is). And, as My Soccer Blog so succinctly puts it,
once they [Italy] saw that the ref was not going to buy their diving, they actually played without all the acting. Who knew the Italians could play without rolling around in the pitch like dogs scratching at fleas?The first 118 minutes were filled with intense, hard-fought, well-played soccer. And as much as I hate to admit it, those goals by Italy were good, beautiful goals. And although many people (myself included) agree that Italy advanced on the merits of some Oscar-worthy acting and bad calls by the refs, they did deserve to win this game. Their defense kept a strong German offense scoreless, even though Germany seemed to have the upper hand for most of the game. That brings me to another thing: am I the only one who misses the golden goal?
Every World Cup has its share of surprises. USA '94 had the USMNT advancing out of group play (probably other stuff too, but I was relatively new to soccer at the time and it was my first exposure to anything higher than community soccer leagues, so I don't remember much more). France '98 had Croatia placing 3rd. Korea/Japan '02 had the USMNT making it to the quarterfinals. And so on. This year's surprise comes in the form of a final between Italy and France, and a relatively early exit from an under-achieving Brazil. I never dreamed of Italy being in the finals this year. (On a side note, it kind of makes me happy that the USMNT was able to tie one of the teams in the finals.) And although I did not expect to see France in the finals, they've played well enough, and apparently their World Cup success over the past decade has been entirely dependent upon home continent advantage (France '98: champions, Korea/Japan '02: early exit). On that note, it should not come as a surprise for them to be in the finals in a bordering country.
Note: edited for typos