Tuesday, July 4, 2006

And Then There Were Four...

As I said before, welcome to Euro 2006. This is the first World Cup since 1982 that the final four are all European teams, and the trend of a European team winning the World Cup on European soil will be extended to 9 out of 10. Two excellent, even matchups that will make the anticipation for Euro 2008 that much greater.

For what it's worth, and full discosure, my wish list for the winner is, in order: France, Portugal, Germany, Italy. So I would like to see Germany beat Italy and then lose in the final to whomever wins the Portugal-France semifinal.

The World Cup is divided into 2 stages, the group stage and the knockout stage, but in reality there are three stages: the group stage, the knockout stage up to the semifinals, and then the "Final 4" if you will. Any team's first goal is to get out of the group stage, but once in the kockout stage no team really starts to think about actually winning the World Cup until they reach the semifinal. In this regard it is very similar to March Madness, where first you get to the Final Four before you really & truly think about actually winning the whole tournament. These 4 teams are so close to that final now that they can taste it, and every player on every team knows that he is 180 minutes from lifting the World Cup and being a world champion.

One last thing that I noticed in the quarterfinals. Three of the 4 matches went to halftime 0-0, and the other (Italy-Ukraine) went in 1-0. In all four matches the first halves were pretty uneventful almost to the point of being labelled disappointing or even boring, and then all 4 matches really picked it up in the 2nd half and were much more exciting. Hopefully for us neutrals there will be more early goals, so that they 0-0 matches will open up sooner and we can see more entertaining soccer for a larger portion of each match and less of the metaphorical feeling each other out cautiously.

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