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                                       politics + culture

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

France could have won

I haven't read this point anywhere. So, I'll make it.

France could have won. Soccer is played with 11 players, but many a team has made do with less...and won. France had chances to score the length and breadth of the 2nd half and the overtimes. France, with 10 men, after Zidane was sent off, still pushed for a goal. Buffon stopped the Zidane header with aplomb...and, friends, Buffon will rank very high on the list of all-time keepers. That moment was a legend denying a legend...Dr. J blocking a shot by Magic Johnson. It could have gone another way...it didn't.

Barthez had always been a potetential weak point. But when it came to PKs...the French side made theirs except for one. That's it. That was the difference. Buffon stopped nothing. Trezeguet hit the cross bar and it failed to spin in. That was it. That determined the outcome of the match.

Italy played well enough for it to go to penalties...and the French failed in the box when they had glorious chances. Ribery, Henry and Zidane all could have taken Buffon to the far left of the net. All of them had that shot in view. None of them made it happen.

Italy made their penalties. That speaks to their side, their training and their team spirit.

I, for one, will always think less of a team that could indulge the "goading" of a Materazzi. Sorry. But I'll also think less of Zidane and expect him to account and atone for his action. Regardless, I know this: he might well of stayed on only to see the French lose. He was tired as hell.

You see, my point is that the opposite result could have happened despite Zidane being sent off. France didn't just "give up." France very easily could have won on PKs. The other ten men played exceptionally well. I can't tell you how many times I commented on the pluck and determination of the French squad. The same could be said for most of the Italian team as well. That being said, the World Cup final as a whole experience came down to something weird and messed up and odd. But the outcome of the match in regulation time was not determined by any one thing, and anyone who says so is pretending to know more than anyone can know.

It came down, in the end, to PKs. Italy won the shoot out. They won the World Cup. It's only a game. And the outcome can't erase the good and bad, the mundane and the sublime...that all of us saw with our own two eyes. Bring down the curtain on the World Cup. Win or lose, every player on that pitch was part of history.

And,at the very least, it wasn't boring.

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