The Europeans will be outnumbered in the Round of 16 for the first time ever. And if Chile can squeeze in there will be 10 nonEuropean teams left in the tournament. What is even more bizarre is that the match-ups could have all the Euros facing each other, which means that the 10 other countries will be matched up as well. It's not in the bag for Chile, though, as they will be facing a desperate Spain team.
And then there is this. Word of caution Roja fans: the world cup teams that Mexico has defeated in the run up to and in the world cup itself have all been eliminated.
So was it stubbornness, arrogance, or fretfulness that led to the elimination of both France and Italy? Both coaches stuck with “their guys” from 2006 for this tournament. Marcello Lippi, in particular, opted for most of Juventus’ back line even after the Gray Lady had one of its worst seasons in years. Defensive lapses killed Italy.
Domenech? He may have had his guys, but even they turned their back on him. It got so bad for the French that Malouda looked almost apologetic when he scored against South Africa. Sorry for ending your World Cup dreams, South Africa. Really. I am.
Over in the Italian camp, one got the sense that Italy was thinking “yeah, we’re having problems, but in the end our pedigree and the fear our uniform elicits from our opponent will be enough.” Even when they were down a goal to Slovakia, there was never a sense of urgency. Did they make the assumption that it would be the other team that would finally crack? The Slovaks did bend a little, but bounced back in a big way.
When was the last time anyone scored a goal off a throw in against the Azurri?
Italy has always puzzled me. I understand the Azurri has traditionally played to its defensive strength and gives its opponent plenty of rope in hopes that they will hang themselves. They usually do. And when the Italians are in the mood they might actually attack a little and provide the fans with some a really entertaining brand of footie.
How often are they in the mood, though? Most of the time, Italy seems more comfortable in their lifelong pursuit of perfecting the dark arts than looking to score. They never seemed to be in the mood at all in South Africa until it was too late.
So the previous finalists are gone, and I don’t really know that many folks around here will miss them that much.
Italy will now go home and face the press and the flying fruit. New Zealand, the other team eliminated from Group F goes home and will be hailed as heroes. A classic juxtaposition of expectations.
As good as the Kiwis feel, I would love to be in Bratislava (or Tokyo) tonight.