Who’s Your Money On?

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Shooting from the Hip Carlos Kambaekwa A whole month on the same diet is no chicken feed unless it’s really something out of this World – for thousands of football fanatics that’s easy meat, but those who are not so keen on the beautiful game, Sunday the 9th of July 2006 would be a blessing in disguise when the curtain finally comes down on the World’s biggest showpiece. For the diehard football fan, it would be another wait for four years until the next World Cup finals resurface in South Africa in 2010 – sounds like a lifetime because some of us are getting a bit long in the tooth and might be statistics by the time the World Cup finals make her maiden appearance on the African continent. With laaities having been separated from outjies , there has been piles of tales, amongst those who claim to know the game, ranging from bad team selections, biased officiating, cheating and all sorts of excuses being advanced, but the crux of the matter is that there will be only one champion after completion of the month-long tourney this Sunday. Hosts Germany were unceremoniously bundled out of the competition in the semifinal by the more skillful Italians who shook off the latest match fixing scandal back home which threatened to derail their progress but the Italians showed unbelievable resilience to overcome the Germans, who had until then only conceded four goals from five outings at this year’s finals. Defending champions Brazil were nowhere near perfection from the onset and had it not been for an easy ride, which saw them pitted against minnows Togo, Japan and Croatia in the group stages, the giants of Brazil would have been on the first available flight back to South America, way before the tournament reached its climax. The Samba Boys were heavily brought down to mother gravity through the exploits of another son of the African soil going by the name of Zinedine Zidane, after the ageing lad took it upon himself to teach the Brazilian pair of Ronaldhino and Kaka a trick or two about the finer points in modern football. Brazil’s exit was self-inflicted through coach Carlos Alberto Perreira’s blind loyalty towards the tired bodies of captain Cafu, Roberto Carlos, Emerson and the ineffective Ronaldo. Rookie center back Juan was in my opinion the only Brazilian to come out with flying colors from their disastrous campaign, and to a lesser extent, Ze Roberto who got stuck to basics. Young enterprising striker Robinho and overlapping wingback Cicinho should have been given starting roles ahead of the seemingly disinterested Ronaldo and the ageing Cafu. Spain signaled their intention very clearly in the group stages after seeing off the likes of Ukraine, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia with comprehensive victories and some of the self-styled football gurus already started to bet their last dollar on Spain. However, the star-studded Spanish team first had to overcome a bunch of talented thirty-something toppies in the French team – but a good number of these toppies are ancestries of Africa and know exactly how to wangle their way out of tight corners as Raul and company learned the hard way. The most disappointing team at this year’s World Cup finals was in no doubt the overrated English outfit, which had in their midst a significant number of hospital patients including a yet-to-be-tested promising 17-year old boy, hardly out of his nappies for a competition of this magnitude – let alone the English Premiership since the young man is still to chase leather in the exactness of football at the highest level. Is it not about jibbos for English football to turn back the clock and incorporate more darkies in the starting lineup? – surely, the likes of Aaron Lennon, Marcus Bent, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Jermaine Defoe would have something to offer for the success-starving implementers of the beautiful game. Portugal was a bit hard done by the dubious penalty, which went against them in the semifinal against Les Blues. I must state categorically that I’ve noticed with great concern some sort of hostility by match officials towards non-European participants and other nations outside Central Europe, and this particular exercise has largely contributed to the early departure of Argentina, Portugal and Ghana. It should also be noted that no team from outside Europe has ever won the World Cup on European soil before, and the same applies to European teams when the prestigious tournament is staged outside their borders. Now, as the tournament heads the home stretch – I bet my last cent on Germany to take some consolation from the third place play-off at the expense of the injury plagued Portuguese outfit. Italy should have little trouble in seeing off France in the final – provided the Italians keep the ever-improving Zizou in check: they could be better advised to make friends, albeit temporarily, with the Brazilian pair of Carlos Alberto Perrerira and Big Louis Phillipi Scalari. Zidane is certainly maturing like old wine and is by far the best player in the month-long competition despite a slow start, which saw him missing out one match through suspension. That’s it for this week, so until next Friday – I’m signing off.