Saturday, July 8, 2006

3rd Place Match: Day 24 Random Thoughts /
Open Thread

Today's match is probably the most irrelevant game in all of sport. Imagine, if you will, the losers of the AFC & NFC Championship playing a game the week before the Super Bowl. There you go: that's what we have here. I really don't understand whey they even play this match anymore (other then $$$ of course); both teams are deflated at having been eliminated, they are tired, and their minds have already shifted to having the next 2-3 weeks off before starting the new season with their club teams. It's not even like the Olympics where the match must be played to award a bronze medal - I just don't get it. I can tell you the last 3 sets of semifinalists: Turkey/South Korea, Holland/Croatia, and Sweden/Romania, but I can't tell you who finished 3rd or 4th in any of them without looking it up.

She perfectly encapsullates the 3rd place match:
Not thrilled to be here, but still worth watching.

That being said, I'll still watch it. Although not really exciting by definition, this year's 3rd place match will be somewhat exciting/interesting mainly because the host nation are in it so the fans will be very enthusiastic, and for German fans it is a 90 minute curtian call for them to shower their team with thanks and praise for doing so well. For Portugal this will be the end of the road for a bunch of players as far as their international careers. They have 7 players on their team who are age 29 or older, so it is hard to see any of them making it to World Cup 2010, although a few may make it to Euro 2008 if Portugal qualify. Most notable in this group is Luis Figo: this will most likely be the last match he ever plays for Portugal.

This match would be more interesting
if she were somehow involved

Both teams may very well tinker with their lineups, because truth be told this isn't much more than a glorified exhibition match. Portugal, as I said, are an older team, so Scolari might give a match to some younger players who have not played thusfar, to give them some experience with and eye on the future. Germany are a very young team, but Klinsmann might do the same thing: try a new player to give him experience and see what he might be able to do during qualifying for Euro 2008, which starts in the fall. One notable substitution will be in the German goal, where Mats has honorably stepped aside so that his rival Oliver Kahn can play in this match, which will likely be his final match for Germany. Nice gesture by Mats, especially considering the fact that over the last 4 years the two have pretty much openly hated each other and often not even spoken to each other at times. In that regard it will be a little bit like a testimonial match for Kahn, then legendary German keeper for so many years.

The only other thing to note about this match is that the 3rd place match tends to be very open and high scoring, because again it is basically consequence free. Another note of interest is the race for the Golden Boot, the award given to the top scorer of the tournament. Miroslav Klose leads with 5, with Lukas Podolski with 3 and Thierry Henry with 3. It's tough to see TH12 netting a hat trick tomorrow, so it looks like the award is Klose's unless Podolski gets 2 goals today. If Klose can net 1 then he is probably home free.

One other note is that the inaugural Young Player Award was handed out yesterday: it is a new award given to the best player in the tournament who was under 21 as of Jan. 1, 2006. Germany's Podolski won the award and C Ronaldo finished 2nd, and they should both play today. Ronaldo was booed every time he touched the ball in the semifinal even before he started in with the Greg Louganis impersonations, so look for more of the same today.

That's about it; I can really get into discussing strategy, tactics, etc., etc., since like I said this is a glorified exhibition match. I would guess that Germany have much more at stake and will really want to put in a good performance in front of their home fans, so I'll pick them to win. Score? Hmmm, they have scored lots of goals and Portugal haven't, so I'll go with Germany 3-1 Portugal. Enjoy.

Germany 3-1 Portugal.
Portugal didn't play poorly, but Germany were dominant, rampant, and thoroughly deserved their win. Their first & third goals by Bastian Schweinsteiger were wonderful, the third one particularly, and Portugal pulled back a nice one with a Nuno Gomes divingheader from a Luis Figo cross. I was actually on ESPN because my Univision was screwed up today, and I was starting to think "hey, JP Dellacamra is doing a good job today" until he referred to Nuno as "Goames" about 50 times instead of "Go-mezz" which is dudes name. Horrible, horrible stuff from their best soccer announcer who has been calling soccer matches for 20+ years. I would expect such a bad mistake from Dave O'Brien, but not from you JP. FWIW, Harkes was pretty good as well - how the hell this is ESPN's #2 team behind the morons O'Brien and Balboa I'll never know.

A good showing by Portugal, just not good enough.

Ollie Kahn played excellent in perhaps his final appearance for the German national team. Germany were great and played awesome offensive soccer - could Frings make that much of a difference? Ballack didn't play today and he wasn't missed at all. Anyhow, based on their play in this tournament, I would have to say that right now Germany and Spain are my 2 favorites to win Euro 2008 - might be worth a bet this far out; the price will be great because they haven't even started qualifying yet.

Good for Figo that he created Portugal's goal in his probably swansong, but if this was to be his last match ever for Portugal, then why didn't Scolari start him? C Ronaldo was dangerous and pacey yet again, but the diving thing is currently overshadowing his play - he had another beauty today in the first half.

So that's about it. Congratulations to Germany: the team, the fans, and the nation, for putting on a great tournament, showing great enthusiasm and support, and for playing arguably the most beautiful soccer of any team in the competition.

Danke, Germany: beautiful all around.


Nicole said...

If this was Figo's last game, what a cross to go out on. That Portugal goal brought tears to my eyes. Ok, not really, but that right there was some of the beautiful game. In fact, all of today's goals were. Portugal's stands above, but I would have given anything to be able to stike a ball like Schweinsteiger did - TWICE!

phil said...

Apparently you CAN'T tell us the last 3 sets of semi-finalists since the 1994 game was Sweeden vs Bulgaria, not Romania.

Kanu said...

Yup. Sorry, Phil.

That pretty much proves my point even more I suppose.