Hey, many many thanks to all those who sent in their thoughts on the World Cup semifinals, to which Spain is not invited. Here are some of the finer selections.
Phil West of Austin, Texas: "My prediction is France-Germany and some really nasty Vichy France/Arc de Triomphe parade needless trash-talk. My nightmare is Italy-Portugal, which would inadvertently be decided on a penalty kick after a dive and an accompanying (because, you know, 2006 World Cup) yellow card."
Richard Gadsden: "We've been here before, and, unusually, Germany doesn't have the advantage. In fact, Italy are 2-0-2 against Germany in World Cup Finals tournaments, including wins in a final (1982) and a semi (1970). The "bogey team" concept has already been reinforced this year by France's unlikely win over Brazil, so Italy's awesome history over Germany has to be taken seriously."
And footie guru Mike Cardillo was kind enough to send in a detailed report on both semifinal games. It is available, in its glorious entirety, after the jump.
Good idea on all reader preview. Although our knowledge is considerably less than Marcelo Balboa, we manage to get our point across without stammering!
Loathsome, contemptale, obnoxious, dispicable. Surpringly were not talking about our German overlords, nay, the greasy-haired, underwear models from Italia.
Meanwhile, the usually stern Germans have taken a cue from German-turned-California Jurgen Klinsmann and have given the host nation a bunch of thrills, amazing with smiles instead of moustaches and bad perms on their face.
That said, that means nothing when they meet Tuesday in the 'Opera House' that is the Westfalenstadion in Dortmund.
If you take the tournament as a whole, Italy has been the most impressive team — including the USA debacle in Kaiserslautern. No opposing player is yet to penetrate Gianluigi Buffon's net.
Also, for all the talk of the Italian football scandal, it's probably brought the team closer together and given them a rallying point.
Meanwhile, the Germans have only played one good team — Argentina — and needed a miracle in kicks to defeat them. Die Mannschaft's only chance is if Michael Ballack plays like the player Chelsea has spent all these Euros on. Don't count on Klinny pulling the right strings.
For some reason this game is going to atone, at least for the Italians, for the Cup in 1990. Italy, as hosts, were ousted in the semifinals by Argentina. My grandfather was in Italia during the tournament and basically described it as dour as if the Pope was shot. (Well...not exactly his words.)
Therefore Italy denies the hosts their chance to become champions on homesoil. Luca Toni with another brace. The Pick: Italy 2, Germany 0
It's hard to call Portugal a surprise or underdog. The small Atlantic state has continually churned out, fun, attacking players and with Big Phil Scolari at the reigns can lockdown the backline with the best of them. Still, this is only their fourth World Cup and first semifinals birth since the great Eusebio in 1966.
For France, everyone, HOPED they were dead in the Group Stage. Really, even with geniuses like Zidane and Henry you cannot root for the Les Blues. Still, the '98 champs have looked better and gained confidence since dispatching Togo 2-0 and did send Brasil (which played dismally against quality opponents) packing.
This will be a pairing of two teams using the 4-5-1 formation, the difference will be a rested Deco, who sat out the Engerland win with a Red card suspension. France has put too much into the last two wins and their astrology loving coach Raymond Domenech's luck runs out here.
You can't overstate the impact of Big Phil. The players absolutely love him and don't think they can lose with him on the touchline. Did you see him bearhug each and every player after the win over England? They'll atone for losing Euro 2004 on homesoil with a win here.
The pick: Força! Portugal wins it for Nelly Furtado, 1-0.