Friday, July 07, 2006

Flip Flop

The World Cup final is upon us and since England has let me down for the tenth time in a row, I'll have to make a new pick. It's a difficult game to call. Italy has looked good at times but their flopping makes it hard to watch their games. France hasn't looked good at all. I'm frankly amazed that they've made it this far. They also have an amazing flair for the dramatic. I don't think you can get within three feet of Thiery Henry without him hitting the ground and rolling around like he's been stabbed.

I guess there's some sentiment for France because of Zidane. This is his last international game and since he is one of the greatest players of all time, it would be nice for him to go out on a high note. The Italians on the other hand are in the middle of a gambling scandal that could see some of their most high profile players serving suspensions or getting banned from the game. It would be easy then to paint this one as the guys in the white hats against the guys in the black hats, but it really isn't that simple. The French team was supposedly in disarray when they got to the World Cup because Henry and Zidane didn't get along. They have hooked up for a couple of goals at this point, so I guess that's all in the past now. Of course, it's always amazing what a couple of wins will do for team chemistry.

If I were to pick the game based on the strength of the teams, I would have to go with Italy. They have looked like the more dangerous squad in recent games. France has done just enough to get by. France is also the higher ranked team by FIFA and as this cup has shown, the higher ranked team is not necessarily the better team. The six highest ranked teams by FIFA didn't even make the semi finals. I'll quibble with their ranking system at a later date. So all signs are pointing to Italy and yet, there seems to be something about France that would lead you to believe that they are the team of destiny. They not only needed to win their last game in the qualifying round, but they needed help from Switzerland in order to move on. They got just enough to get out of the first round. They were down to Spain before pulling out the victory. They have managed more than one goal just twice in six games. But destiny is a powerful force and they seem to have it on their side.

Before the World Cup started I told my friend Gary Power about my England pick. He responded by saying that I should have picked a team like Italy. I should have listened to him. Well, since I'm going to be watching the final at Ric Salvatici's house in Boston, surrounded by Italian fans, I basically have no recourse but to pick Italy to win. That is unless it goes to penalty kicks, where the Italians have about as much luck as the English do. That last comment sounded like I was hedging my bets to some extent, so I will say unequivocally that the Italians will win on Sunday.

Of course, I have been wrong once or twice in my life.



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