30 June 2006

WC: Quarterfinal, Game Of The Year

So the Quarterfinals kick off today and what a day it will be. In the afternoon we have Italy vs. Ukraine. My fear is that this will become a boring, defensive stalemate, moving into extra time at 0-0. But Italy is a strong team, and I have hopes that they can break through the Ukranian defense fairly early. Either way, though, I can't see Ukraine winning... unless they can somehow hold out for penalties. A big ask.

But the early game, the one to watch, is Germany vs. Argentina. Ever since the first games, when Germany romped over Costa Rica and Argentina looked deadly in defeating the Ivory Coast, the buzz has been building around both teams. I'm not one for hype, but this is probably the premier match of the entire tournament. I'd say the odds are better than even that whoever wins here will win the whole thing.

And I don't have a real clue who will win here. Germany would be the safer bet. Their attack has been ruthless and clinical, which is not surprising for a German team. But it's also been creative, which is surprising. The home crowd advantage isn't to be sneered at either. So it's easy to imagine them winning the match.

On the other hand, Argentina have looked very, very dangerous as well, with an equally impressive assault on the opposing goal. But Argentina haven't exhibited the defensive weaknesses that Germany hasn't entirely hidden. And Argentina have a secret weapon: they had to grind out a tough win against a very dangerous Mexico team. That victory will give them a confidence and a resiliency that will serve them well today. Germany have been able to coast so far, and haven't yet needed to gut out a tough situation.

So I just don't know. Two evenly matched teams in the quarterfinals would typically result in a 0-0 match, decided by penalties. I desperately hope it doesn't come to that, and I don't think it will. We have here two very good attacking teams, and I suspect one or the other will break through early on. I hope so... because from that point forward, hold on to your seat. This could be the best match of 2006, and I can't wait.

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