Well, it took long enough, but it's finally time for the World Cup Final. It's your favorite divers from Italy against the surrender monkeys from France. It's non-stop fun; it's the World Cup.
It's like the world's Super Bowl, except that the commercials won't be nearly as good.
Breaking with our habit of only live-blogging weekday games, we're live-blogging this one, because it's the final, you know? Kind of important. Who is entrusted with the big-time assignment? None other than That's On Point's Mike Cardillo, who has been one of our very favorite live bloggers and will surely rock it out this time. Besides, we thought it would be nice to save weekend fill-in AJ Daulerio the trouble of making fun of the sport. It's the World Cup Final! It's on!
Follow along in the comments and enjoy the game ... it's four more years until we get to do this again, so try to have a good time.
Thanks for stopping by. Camoranesi was just sheared by his teammates. I think that means its time to go. Warning shameless plug coming, be sure to stop by my site. We'll recap and have some other fun stuff. Adios.
Man of the Match: Cannavaro. Brilliant on defense. Brilliant throughout the Cup.
I am spent. Phew. My grandfather is smiling somewhere. Enjoy this video, at least the music.
Not the way you want to end it, but Italy claims WM No. 4. Hero is, er, Grosso for making the dramatic shot. Goat is Zidane. Karma comes around for Trezeguet six years later, on a bigger stage.
Italy: Grosso — Good: ITAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALIAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA
Oh the drama. If Italy makes this, it is over.
France: Sagnol — Good: Italy leads 4-3.
Italy: Del Piero — Good. Italy leads 4-2
France: Abidal — Good. Italy leads 3-2.
Italy: De Rossi — Good, Italy leads 3-1.
France: Trezeguet — Missed. Hit the inner half of the crossbar. 2-1 Italy.
Italy: Materazzi — Good. 2-1
France: Wiltord — Good. 1-1
Italy: Pirlo — Good. 1-0
The goalies hug. Awwwwww.
I have a bad feeling France wins and damnit, Barhtez is a hero. Merde.
PENALTY KICKS (with the Rocky Balboa theme music....should favor Italy, yes?)
120' — Wiltord breaks free, skies his cross well high of an on-rushing Trezeguet. Looks like kicks. Dammit!
119' — For all the American sportcasting talking heads, you want these guys to play forever? Look at the state of this game. These players are finished. This isn't baseball folks.
117' — Italy is done. They are going to be in trouble for kicks.
114' — Wow. How could Zidane lose his cool there? For all the media ready to diefy him, better hit the delete button. , Still Italy cannot capitalize.
111' — Italy needs to press. If France is able to manage to win without their talisman, I will be shocked. No Zidane, no Henry. Who would have thought.
109' — WOW. Zidane should have been sent off. A WWF headbutt on Matterazzi. Dirty. Unbelievable. Nearly as bad as the Rooney stomp. Blatant. ZIDANE IS OFF!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The ref consulted the linesman and they got it right. Zidane has been prone to blow ups in big games. This is a terrible way for him to end, BUT he should have known better.
107' — Henry comes off for Wiltord. Fresh legs, plain and simple.
This is some tense stuff. I almost can't bear to watch. I really love to see some grayhaired sumbitch walk in and wonder where my Tiger Woods golf is? What's with this sawker crap?
EXTRA TIME 2
Thats it for extra time no. 1. Zidane probably should have scored on that header. Italy did not threaten. Will they have some 119th minute magic again?.... ABC shows a replay of Toni's disallowed goal. Hate to say it, but he looked onside.
104' — What do you know. I just type that and Zidane gets a free header on goal right from the penalty spot. Buffon gets his left hand on it to knock it away. Wow. .... on the CK Buffon comes off the line to punch it away. Brilliant stuff form the Italy No. 1.
102' — We can kill the ABC guys for their mispeaks and errors, but they are totally missing the point here. All DOB wants to yammer about is Zidane. The real story is how France has been able get forward on the wings to create chances. And lesso how Itlay has lost all its form.
100' — Wooooow. Ribery JUST wide of the right stick. France looks tres dangerous. .... France sub: Trezeguet for Ribery. Interesting. Will lightning strike twice for the Juventus-man?
99' — What is going on with Italy...they are just stading around in the midfield. Dig deep fellas.
97' — Toni cannot hold up the ball for Italy, his second bad turnover of extra time.
95' — Malouda collides with Gattuso. Leaves his feet before contact looking for a call. Still, Malouda has been awful dangerous tonight. ... and dammit, where's my Cialis. ...Golf tournament that is.
93' — France CK.....cleared easily by Italy.
91' — Can we all collectively pray that this doesn't go to kicks? yes?
92' — Ribery chips, Buffon handles. .... and that's it. Extra time.
89' — Italy playing, of all things, long balls. Not a good sign. Looks like were getting "overtimes" according to Davey Boy.
88' — Here it is, the Celo standby, "Italy looks tired." (They do...what happened to their midfield?)
86' — Del Piero on for Italy. Camoranesi comes off. Can he be the hero? (With his freshly shaved head, he looks a little bit too much like Vin Diesel for my liking.)
85' — Henry with another snaking run. Sends in the middle for Zidane....nothing doing.
83' — Long attempt from Sagnol. ... Zambrotta clears akwardly. ... France still controlling the run of play.
80' — Zidane sitting on the turf. He looks ok. Pointing to his shoulder. ... the stretcher comes out. Collison with Cannavaro. Zidane looks like he is really hurt. He walks off the field. Interesting turn of events. ... He's back on quickly. (Marcelo inferred that Zidance asked to be subbed. He knows all.)
78' — My brother with a great Marcelo impression. "You know its great whoever gets the trophy, because they won the game."
76' — Diarra with a yellow card. Elbowed Toni, gets the card for a personal favorite, "dissent." ... Italy FK. .... 40 yards, straight on goal. .... Pirlo takes it. ... Ripped it. Just wide of the left post.
75' —Zidane lines up a kick from the left side. ... sails too far for anyone to get a touch on. Yet, to Celo its, "a great ball" despire being five feet over everyone's head.
73' — Marcelo on the "magic spray" — "It's cold, so it numbs it up and numbs the pain." Is there a magic spray for my television volume? ... Let's compare Cannavaro to Marcelo, as a player. Cannavaro is "The Godfather." Marcelo is, "In the Army Now."
72' — A shot of former president Bill Clinton in a luxury box. I really don't know how to respond to that other than, wooooooo pig suey.
71' — Zidane freekick, knocked away with two hands by Buffon.
69' — Celo, "The best teams in the world have a mix between the old players and the young players."
65' — Italy looking better. Toni with a chance that is blocked....later a cross that's blocked. ... Cannavaro wins a ridicolous tackle. He was basically hunched over, best I've seen. ... Malouda's shot is wide.
63' — Henry with another quick strike. Buffon saves and parries the rebound away. Henry showed up tonight. The early headbutt must have woken him up.
62' — Italy looks like it scored, perfect header from Toni...but just offside. CLOSE CALL. Smart move on the quick restart.
61' — Diarra body slams Totti. Meanwhile De Rossi on for Totti (who did nothing) and Iaquinta for Perrotta (who did nothing also).
59' — Zizou chants in the stadium. Stevesie is there?
58' — Zidane winds up for a volley at the top of the box, blocked by Italy. Italy looks totally listless.
56' — Vieira is off. Big loss for France. Alou Diarra comes on. Didn't look that bad of an injury. This could really change things up.
55' — France is going for it. Malouda is terrorizing the left wing. He threads it across the box, but Ribery is too deep to control. ... Vieira cramping up. I really feel bad for the guy. The stretcher is out. You're a hardman, walk it off!
53' —France breaks out, led by Ribery. Centers to Zidane, feeds to a streaking Malouda. There is contact, Zambrotta clearly clips him and doesn't come near the ball, but no call. So we are even in that department.
52' — Henry open in the box. Cannavaro plucks it off his toe. What a duel these two are engaging in.
50' — Ok, take it back. Henry dances through the box. He slides it over and Italy clears for a corner. Good stuff at both ends. Call me crazy, but Italy is looking a little shaky again.
49' — Italy AGAIN threatens off a corner. Cannavaro with a flying header, blocked by Gallas. Toni lets the rebound fall, instead of going for the header. Odd.
48' — Malouda shoves down Zambrotta. To borrow an old UCB line, 'wouldn't you like to shove Henry Truman?" Man, I miss that show. At least we still have Crank Yankers.
46' — Henry breaksthrough, somehow keeps his balance and fires a shot right at Buffon. Henry's work is done for the night. Buffon taps Henry on the shoulder in a friendly gesture. MAYBE on ABC they'd like to mention they both played at Juventus together briefly. (Ok, they do eventually.)
Saw the Malouda "penalty" again. Get the man an Oscar. To borrow a wrestling term, great sell. The anti-Hulk Hogan.
Oh baby....Calista Flockhart returns to tv this fall. ... Jim McKay...is this the Johnny Cash, "Hurt" video. Yikes.
If you don't give my football back......
Halftime: Good stuff so far, even with the rather bogus France PK. We get a Jim McKay essay at halftime. Wheeeeeeeeee. I need to break. Hit the WC and get something to nosh on. Be back soon.
45+' — Informative. Placido Dominguez will perform during halftime. He must have a heavy heart with the health of fellow tenor Pavoratti. I guess eating ten plates of fetticini alfredo per week isn't good for the ol' ticker.
45' — Italy with a FK from 45+...nothing happening. Italy losing a little bit of its sharpness. ... and Vieira just called for a throw-in violation. Ha. .... We should have at least four minutes of stoppage time.
44' — Materazzi picks the ball clean off Ribery's toe on the touchline. Man, these Italians can tackle. ... Am I going to type this? I agree with Celo, where is Totti?
42' — Great line from a German newspaper on Toni, "He's built like a truck with a Ferrari engine."
41' — Shot of the crowd doing the wave. Damn Euros...they still love that stupid shit.
39' — Poor back pass from France. Toni almost sneaks in. Barthez kicks out of bounds.
36' — End-to-end stuff. Henry gets down in the box, but Cannavaro slides in to block it for a corner.
35' — Toni with a shot. ... leads to CK. ... Off the corner Toni with ANOTHER free header. Hits the crossbar. Should be 2-1. France cannot mark Italy on this set plays. They are living dangerously.
34' — Quick line on Ribery. French right wing leader Jean-Marie Le Pen, called out Domenech for including too many players of color on the French team. Thuram responded and shot him down. Long story short, Le Pen must be conflicted on Ribery, while he is white. he is also Muslim. Wait a second why am I wasting time talking about right wing assholes?
33' —Perrotta looks like he's been shot. Ribery with a side sweep, light attack button style from Street Fighter II. Ribery does have a scar like Sagat, afterall.
31' — Soft shot skies into the grip of Buffon. ... Wow. They showed Franz Beckenbauer on the screen and ACTUALLY idenitfied him. Cash in your life insurance policies.
30' — Just had to post this quote from Gattuso on guarding Zidane. "If you want to limit his effect you need a lot of luck and need to make the sign of the cross."
29' — Italy FK — blocked.
28' — Wow, Materazzi with another form header. It's blocked. A foul anyway.
27' — Game has settled down a little bit. Hard to say which team is fitter as the game progresses.
25' — Ribery gets behind the defense and centers. Tapped out by Italy. Henry, btw, trucked an Italian with no call. And Zidane has gone down twice without getting a call.
24' — Wow. Did you know that Jesse Owens won Olympic gold medals at this stadium. Way to earn your paycheck Dave O'Brien.
23' — Jesus, Materazzi has about as many tattoos as Allen Iverson. In the NBA we have neck tats. In world football, massive forearm tats. Again, Barthez just flapped at the header. France has gotten by with this goon this far, but he might just coast them in the end game.
21' — This game is turning into the "cracker." How is France going to generate any offense? Their last three goals have come from penalty kicks and set pieces. Meanwhile Italy is dominating possession.
19' — WE ARE TIED. Materazzi with a header off the corner. Belisma. Great service from Samuari Camoranesi. Vieira totally burned on the defense. Barthez no where to be found. 1-1. Goals. Who'd have thunk it John Feinstein?
18' — It's worth nothing Italy hasn't trailed in this tournament until now. France seems content to sit back and defend like they did against Portugal.
16' — First shot of Italian manager Marcello Lippi. Didn't he play Det. Frank Drebin?
14' — Italy free kick...Pirlo curls in. Thuram heads wide. Barthez was caught looking.
12' — Sagnol a yellow for a hard challenge. Quoth Celo, "It's a final. It's going to be a physical game." Brilliant.
11' — Celo raving over Zidane's near shank of a PK. This guy comes from another planet. He almost talks more than Hubie Brown, if that's possible.
9' — Ooooh. Italy looks rattled. Materazzi nearly headed it backward into the net. Buffon forced to stretch.
6' — Malouda takes a tumble in the box. Total flop. France gets a penalty. —— Zidane to take it. Hits the crossbar, rattles in, barely. Almost paid for the chip. 1-0 France. Drats. Considering the amount of flipping and flopping during this Cup its only fitting the first goal of the Final is a PK. Italy's check to the refs must not have cleared yet.
5' — Zambrotta yellow card for running into Vieira.
4' — Henry is back after some smelling salts.
2' — Henry is hurt. They have one of those old-timey ice bags. Cannavaro with the collision. Inadverent. Henry looks like he definitely got his bell rung rung rung. Henry comes off for the time being.
You're looking (live) at the 73,000 seat Olympiastadion, the site of today's WM final between France and Italy. Upwards of one billion eyes may be trained on this game of all games in a sleepy Western Berlin neighborhood. (And upwards of dozens should be tuned into this live blog.)
Today's game brings an end to what will probably be considered a mediocore, to sub-par World Cup. Yes, the Group Stages provided plenty of exciting games, but few surprises aside from Ghana. The Knockout Phase has been a display of hunker-down, defensive 1-0 football. Fun for everyone!
Meanwhile, no individual player has jumped up and taken this Cup over by the short-and-curlies. Yes, Zidane's inspired run is a story most with a heart can get behind. (The legend riding off into the Marseille sunset with the Jules Rimet trophy.)
But let's be honest, he played great against Brasil and that's about it. Due to the lack of a dominant, driving force (Ronaldihno, how's life?) all the media is just eager to annoit him. Don't forget, he picked up his second yellow card way back against Korea and didn't play in Les Bleus' do-or-die match vs. Togo.
If we were to award the Golden Ball at this very moment my vote goes to Fabio Cannavaro. The pint-sized Caesar owns the penalty area and fortified a defense that has conceeded only one goal. Plus he's been paired with a revolving door of centre-backs, losing no quality in the process. (Although if Italy wins, watch Buffon win it.)
Despite what I wrote a few graphs ago, don't count out Zidane though, the man is probably the best player since Maradona and has a knack for coming up huge in the big game, both internationally and on the club level. (Let's see he's done the header and the left-foot volley thing. Perhaps he can score with his eyes closed.)
On paper this looks like a pure defensive struggle, but for some reason I think Italy should be able to score in a variety of different ways, while France is going to be hard pressed to breakdown the Italian "Senators" on the backline. Read more of my brilliant analysis here.
And most importantly, today is our last chance to mock Marcelo Balboa for his mangling of both the English language and the beautiful game.
Also of note, both teams wear a shade of blue — Italy, "The Azzurri"; France, "Les Bleus" — but today it will be Italy in blue. For today at least, France will have to be Les Blancs.
THE NITTY GRITTY
PREVIOUS FINALS: Italy — 1934 beat Czechslovakia 2-1 a.e.t.; 1938 beat Hungary 4-2; 1970 lost to Brasil 4-1; 1982 beat West Germany 3-1; 1994 lost to Brasil in PKs; France: 1998 beat Brasil 3-0
LEADING SCORERS: Italy — Luca Toni, 2 (nine other Italians have scored); France: Thierry Henry 3
GOALS ALLOWED: Italy 1, France 2
ROAD TO FINAL: Italy: Group E 1st: Beat Ghana 2-0; Drew USA 1-1; Beat Czech Republic 2-0; Round of 16: Beat Austraila 1-0; QF: Beat Ukraine 3-0; Semi: Beat Germany 2-0 a.e.t; France: Group G 2nd: Drew Switzerland 0-0; Drew Korea 1-1; Beat Togo 2-0; Round of 16: Beat Spain 3-1; QF: Beat Brasil 1-0; Semi: Beat Portugal 1-0
PREVIOUS MATCHUPS OF NOTE: France eliminated Italy in in the Quarterfinals of 1998 in penalty kicks. Two years later they struck a blow that might be the turning point in Italian football at the Euro 2000 Final. Italy led 1-0 at Rotterdam, only to see Wiltord tie it in the 90th minute, followed by a 103rd minute Golden Goal by Trezeguet. Watch it right here.
Goalkeeper: Fabian Barthez
Leftback: Willy Sagnol
Centreback: William Gallas, Lilliam Thuram
Rightback: Eric Abidal
Leftwing: Franck Ribery
Defensive midfielder: Patrick Vieira, Claude Makelele
Rightwing: Flourent Malouda
Attacking midfielder: Zinadine Zidane
Forward: Thierry Henry
Goalkeeper: Gigi Buffon
Leftback: Fabio Grosso
Centrebacks: Fabio Cannavaro, Marco Materazzi
Rightback: Gianluca Zambrotta
Defensive midfielder: Gennaro Gattuso
Central midfielders: Simone Perotta, Andrea Pirlo
Attacking midfielders: Francesco Totti, Mauro Camoranesi
Forward: Luca Toni
PREDICTION: Italy 2, France 0
THE LAST WORD: "I have found myself appreciating this sport more than ever, during this tournament." — Mike Lupica, ESPN Sports Reporters. (Beware children, the end is nigh. He actually defended soccer againt John Feinstein's nonsensical argument. Yeah John, golf is sooooooooo action-packed and exciting.)