We're down to the final three teams in the World Cup — unless you count the third-place game, and who counts the third place game? — and we're knocking out one of them right now. The first team in the World Cup Finals is Italy; who will be the second, as they say?
It's France — a team that at one point was in danger of not even making the Round of 16 — vs. Portugal, a team that knocked out the English and got a Wayne Rooney ballstomp for its troubles. It should be a fiery crew; could we actually have an Italy-France final? What happens then?
Your live blogger today is Robert Weintraub, from Slate, and he should be rocking it out and having a grand time. This is our final weekday World Cup live blog, so bring your A-game, people, after the jump.
That will do it for me—Around The Horn has appeared on screen, which is everyone's cue to exit. Thanks again to Will for the sitespace, and enjoy the Final everyone!!! (See you at tennis, Lorie).
For Portugal, Figo showed his age, Deco was taken out by Makelele, Pauleta was atrocious, and only Ronaldo was consistently dangerous, but there were no finishing touches. Off to the 3-4 match against the Germans, that should be fun to watch. I may finish weedwhacking instead.
To quote the immortal Henri (not Henry, but the cad from "Cheers"), "France Has Won!" To which Cliff replies, "There's something you don't hear everyday." Not the most exciting of games, frankly—felt at times like a March clash between mid-table squads. But all credit to Zidane—he scores the game's lone goal, and will play for his second Jules Rimet trophy on Sunday. It's Les Bleus against the Azzuri—my bet is on the team that wears blue. Italy has been the best team by far this tourney, but France has the look of destiny about them. My guess—Zidane scores the winner in extra time for the first real goal off Buffon, and walks off the pitch as a champeen—until he is talked into playing for Francais in South Africa 2010
Figo and Zidane unsurprisingly trade jerseys. Look for the ebay firesale tomorrow.
FRANCE HAS WON 1-0!!!! FRANCE V ITALY IN THE WORLD CUP FINAL.
94' Another Saha giveaway results in a through ball to Ronaldo, who is offsides, on the last play of the game.
94' Barthez out to snatch a good cross.
93' Corner punched out, to Ricardo, who is waaaaaaay up. he regains and wins another corner.
92' Superb play from Figo, leaves one for Deco, who sends one tantalizingly through the box, but no one at the far post.
91' Postiga nicely wins the ball in air and leaves for Meira, who has plenty of space but blasts well over. Best chance since Figo's botch.
91' Saha gives it away, and sulkily walks back on defense—he's been a nightmare in his few minutes of action. Fortunately for him Figo can't find Postiga.
90' Four minutes of stoppage time—can Portugal even get a shot away?
89' Not much urgency from the Portuguese—even Brazil turned it up in the last 10 minutes. Figo and Ronaldo seem out of gas. And Deco has been marked out of this one by the great Makelele.
88' More nice ZZ touches to keep the pressure off his goal.
88' The crowd lustily sings La Marsellaise—just like in Victory!!! Of course the announcers were yapping through it.
87' That was quick—Saha gets booked for a two leg pincer on Figo—Henry won't have to worry about subbed out in the final, as Saha won't be playing.
86' Zidane hasn't done much this half but now does some nice holding and possession.
85' Yep, Henry is off for Saha. Hope for Domenech's sake this doesn't go to extra time. Let's say it all together anyway—WHO IS ON FIRE?? HENRY IS ON FIRE!!! That's what this game is missing, some Cantona craziness.
84' Nice French buildup, but Sagnol mindlessly lumps one right at Ricardo. He in turn gives it away on the boot.
84' Figo just realized his World Cup career is done in about 10 minutes unless he does something, so he makes a nice run down the right and wins a corner. But guess what—it's a shitty one.
82' Carvalho gets a yellow for hacking down Wiltord—guess he did NOT get one earlier. Thought he did. Now he's out for the final, though that looks rather moot as the clock ticks.
82' Saha is up, does Domenech dare replace Henry?
80' Thuram fouls, setting up a free kick in a dangerous spot on the left. Figo's bender is cleared by Veiera's head. Carvalho collects and sends one way over.
77' Ronaldo gets taken down by Veiera for a free kick. He crushes it at Barthez, who volleyballs it up in the air for a gift rebound to Figo, who botches the sitting header. What a golden chance for the last remnant of the golden generation. But he blew it. It walloped off Barthez's chest before he could get his hands up, to be fair, that's how hard it was struck.
76' Big Phil is doing his best "C'mon lads!!" but to no effect. A nice cross sees some synchronized diving by Ronaldo and Postiga.
75' Postiga replaces Costinha, who struggled to check Zidane and Ribery. Postiga plays in the French league, for what it's worth.
73' Simao strips Zidane but can't find anyone on his cross. Ronaldo gets a nice flick and turn but no one gets it to him on the give and go.
72' Another sub, Govou replaces Ribery for defensive purposes, so long scarface, you had a decent game.
71' Ronaldo another run down the left, drawing three defenders, winning a corner. But again the service on the set piece is wanting.
71' Nuno Valente tries a speculative shot from the left that swerves on Barthez but he grabs it.
70' Wiltord comes in for Malouda, maybe he will jumpstart the French attack, but I doubt he'll make too many runs and leave gaps for Ronaldo and Figo to counter into.
69' Simao immediately tries a run but Sagnol won't have it—he has had a strong game.
67' Simao is up, likely in for Pauleta. Simao has had some nice moments, and going to more 4-4-2 seems mandatory right now—there is just no contact up front.
66' Pauleta ruins a nice switch of field by giving it the full scuba—barely breathed on and he flops like Vlade Divac.
64' JP acknowledges Ribery's mercurial behavior at club level—he's been on 6 different clubs. He's getting the full tonguebath from the media this month, and he has been excellent, but now you know why he isn't a bigger name.
63' France definitely has pulled it in a bit, looking for counterattacks. A long cross is picked off by Barthez, perfect opportunity for a runout and throw to Ribery, but Fabien doesn't go for it.
61' Now Abidal goes down from a Figo cross that catches him full in the mush. Meanwhile, Paulo Ferreira comes in for Miguel, another Chelsea man who can't get a game at the club but is here in the World Cup.
60' An hour in and Miguel can't continue—looks like he pulled something on that awkward end to a good run. Portugal wanted the foul, but I don't think so. They're playing with ten until a sub can get ready. Shocked he didn't go down and at least stop the game.
58' Pauleta backheels for cutting Miguel, put he had stumbled after a strong run. He looks very good, though—Valencia may not be able to keep him.
57' Cutaway of Aime Jacquet in the house, manager in '98 when France won the Cup. Probably rooting for Portugal—those guys are all egomaniacs.
56' Dangerous corner just headed away by Meira with Veiera lurking. Meira and Veiera—that rhymes! Alert your favorite Eurorapper.
54' Ronaldo another nice run earns a corner. Nothing in it and Ribery sprints down the left on a counter, gets it too Zidane, and he leaves it for Henry—who thought ZZ Top would shoot. So much for putting aside the differences—nice call Rob.
53' Pauleta gets it from Figo with his back to the goal, turns quickly, and fires—hits the side netting, but his first bit of positivity tonight.
52' Seeing Veiera make a nice tackle reminds me that the match-fixing scandal in Italy, harped on endlessly yesterday, is a factor here. Patrick made a timely move from Arsenal to Juve, what? Trezeguet and Thuram will likely be moving too.
49' Not much talk lately about how Zidane and Henry can't work together—they have worked out their differences (pitch and personal) for the good of le Rupublique. France has another goal in them, you can feel it. Portugal needs a break or some fab individual play to turn the tide.
47' Tentative start to the half broken by a turnover and a bit of magic from Henry, who gets a left-footer off that Ricardo just manages to parry for a corner. Veiera can't get to the corner but France regains, Zidane throws in a series of stepovers, and Ribery gets off a crack that stuns Ricardo but he manages to pop it up in the air and recover to grab it.
And we're back. Portugal needs to make some runs to link off Ronaldo and get something tangible going in the box. Maniche may need to drop back and work with Ronaldo in tandem.
Here comes Zidane, taking the stairs two at a time. He looks 20 again! Or is it 18! The final will feature a holographic image of Zizou, like that endlessly aired Adidas ad with the shimmering young Beckenbauer.
I despise the Home Run Derby as the worst the confluence of American culture and ESPN propaganda can generate, but any excuse to play the 1812 Overture is a good one. Seek out Peter O'Toole in "My Favorite Year", he sings it drunkenly in a classic moment from a great flick. Wait, this isn't Cinematical, it's Deadspin? My bad.
Ahhh, Big Game Brent, thank you so for gracing us with your golden pipes! Now I know this game is worth watching.
Did you know Zidane wanted to play for Algeria, but his genius coach at the time said he was too slow? Right there with the deep mind who cut Michael Jordan from his high school team. That Algerian coach is now listening to "Shema Yisrael" on an endless loop in a dungeon in Algiers.
Miami Vice movie ad—can't wait! I like how Michael Mann is promo'd as the "director of Collateral" and not the man behind the original TV series. Man, I'm old...
Say it together—ZIZOU!! He has the lone goal on a penalty earned by Henry. Looks like he wants the storybook win the World Cup and walk away finish to his brilliant career. Top 5 all-time, with Pele, Maradona, De Stefano, and Alexi Lalas? I think so. Good to see an Algerian getting some love in the west, post-September 11th. My friend Beth has fallen for the Galactico Primero Uno, putting his gleaming dome as her wallpaper, even though her husband properly identified him as an extra from the dock scenes in French Connection II.
By the way, it's Champs Elysees, not the retarded way I spelled it earlier.
HALFTIME 1-0 FRANCE
46' Again Harkes says Portugal doesn't need to complain—ever hear of the Scorpion and the Frog, John?
45' Ribery assaulted again with no call—he pops up like Gumby but can't make anything happen.
45' Solid Ribery turn, but his shot is blocked.
44' Well, Ronaldo has no confidence in his teammates—his run down the right draws a troika of Frenchmen, and Cristiano just blasts ineffectively wide.
43' Pauleta has been invisible—given the strength of Ronaldo's runs he needs to make himself available.
42' Figo comes over and clatters Zidane down just because he's jealous of Zizou's Jean-Luc Picard look.
41' Ribery splits two men on the right and gets taken down, but Gorgeous Jorge waves him up. Bad no call there.
39' Brilliant Ronaldo run results in a left footed shot that deflects out for a corner. See, he can be so dangerous when not bitching and moaning. Costinha fouls Barthez on the corner.
38' Thuram again a cool clearance—he heard my lashing about their weakness earlier.
37' Figo with a pair of crosses—good Thuram clearance, than Ronaldo with a spectacular two and a half with a twist, looking for a makeup penalty. No dice. Someone on the Portugal bench hurled a water bottle on the field. This is what I was talking about in the intro—their plaers are so gifted but they are just such babies.
34' Maniche tries a low skipper from 40 yards out that Barthez fumbles but collects.
33' Zidane will take it—-GOALGOALGOALGOALGOALGOALGOAL!!! Ricardo of course got a piece, but not enough as Zizou tucks it with power into the left corner. 1-0 Les Bleus, and they're going wild on the Champs D'Elysee and fancy hair salons across the globe.
32' HENRY GOES DOWN IN THE AREA—PENALTY IS CALLED!!! He tried to flick past Carvalho, who just barely clips him, but it was a foul. Carvalho now out for the final, if...
31' Miguel starts a nice counter attack, but Pauleta lets everyone in red down with an errant pass toward Maniche.
30' Harkes says no one likes to see diving—doesn't he know that Portugal practices it as much or more than free kicks?
29' Nice closeout by Fernando Meira to prevent an Henry shot but France has taken control of the action through Zizou and Ribery.
28' Henry abuses Miguel but can't get any power on a tight angle shot, and Ricardo swallows it easily.
27' Zidane taken down at the edge of the area, ref says he dove! Looked a little dubious, frankly. Jorge has been OK thus far—Sepp must have his family locked up in a Montevideo basement as insurance.
25' Shot of large throng at FanFest in Munich—nice to see Ze Germans are still into it after yesterday. By the way, don't you wish they showed the huge mob at the Berlin Fan Mile after the loss? Surely there was some classic German sentimentality going on, probably involving truncheons.
24' Good Portugal possession but Valente's ball into the box isn't good.
23' Harkes just seemed to confuse Arsenal with Man United, saying Veiera knows Ronaldo well from his prior home in North London. C'mon, don't get Balboan on us.
22' Sagnol looking crafty for a defender (converted midfielder I believe), makes some nice touches but then remembers who he is and loses it out of bounds.
21' Nuno Valente facetraps an Henry blast after a couple of nice moves.
20' France looks a little misshapen at the back, especially susceptible to runs from the wing across the middle. Take control, Makelele!
18' First Big Phil cutaway—thnk he knows the camera will find him? No bad words about him, though—anyone with that kind of whammy on the English deserves 'spect.
16' Barthez stops a Figo strike with a nice stretch. Speaking of stretch, on the follow through Figo crashes heavily into Veiera, and needs the ole stretcher. Natch, he's right back on his feet.
15' Portugal wins a corner but it goes over everyone, At least JP didn't call it an outswinger, which souunds vaguely camp.
14' Zidane's first bit of brilliance, a stepover gets the ball to Ribery, a cross comes in for Henry who can't reach it. He looks a step behind early here, but as all Arsenal fans know, he can look that way for 85 minutes than break the enemy's heart with a sniper strike.
12' Figo with a nice step by but Amidal recovers and tackles him with the toe from behind.
11' Nice start to this one, much better than England-Portugal. Not the relentless pace of yesterday's furious action but not bad.
10' Veiera giveaway results in a good cross by Figo. Sliding clearance by Thuram.
9' Maniche unleashes a cannon off a magical Ronaldo backheel. Just glances over the crossbar. Maniche has been consistently dangerous in the Cup, looks it again.
8' Mystifying clearance gives France the game's first corner—Zizou looks for Henry but too tall for him.
7' Already Portugal looks much brighter in attack with Deco running the show.
6' Ribery's first action—he's gotten a lot of positive notices due to his super pace. This cross finds no one home, though.
4' Ronaldo sets up Deco who tests Barthez with a grounder to the far post. Good save and a good walloff by Sagnol to prevent Ronaldo from banging in the rebound.
3' Ronaldo booed lustily the first time he touchs the rock.
2' Our referee tonight is the infamous Jorge Larrionda of Uruguay, whom might have last seen tossing out red cards like they were Junior Mints in the Italy-USA match.
1' Malouda with an early chance after a long ball to the left side of the box. Wide.
It's quite jarring to see Henry wearing number 12. His nickname is TH14, for Pierre's sake! Like seeing Gretzky wear 91 while playing in the Olympics. Can't he at least work one of those trades, like you see from time to time in the pros, wear a player deals some steaks or a nice watch or a couple of groupies in exchange for a favorite number? C'mon Saha, give up jersey!
Anthems for each side. Surely we can agree Le Marseillaise is the greatest one out there, non? Can't you just picture Claude Rains signing it at Rick's? Too bad the Germans lost—we could have replayed that great scene in our heads in entirety.
Since Brent Musberger (what the hell is HE doing there?) just compared Zidane to John Stockton on the pre-game show (because us igna'nt Americans can't appreciate anything unless it's related to a sport we understand), I'll do a reach of my own. Cristiano Ronaldo reminds me off—Ruy Faleiro. Who? He was a colleague of fabled Portugal native Ferdinand Magellan (original name—Fernao de Magelhaes). A brilliant astronomer and mapmaker who went a little bonzo before Magellan took off, and missed out on the famous voyage (probably saving his life). Today, he would just take meds for being bipolar. He reminds me of Ronaldo—ingenius but troubled.
Forgive me—I'm reading a book about the famous voyage called Over The Edge Of The World (highly recommended), so I may have a few 16th century references today.
Walkout time. Uh-oh, Ronaldo just winked at Zidane. Trouble brewing?
Portugal is officially wearing port red shirts and port red socks. Yet Les Bleus is wearing white. Confusing times.
Still catching a buzz from yesterday's Italy-Germany all-Axis thriller? Well, shake it off, because it's time for the second semifinal. The resurgent Frenchies, in the rare position of being more manly than their opponents, against Portugal, featuring a forward line of Louganis and Cousteau. Have I tipped my hand? Truth is, I was quite happy to witness the Portuguese see the Twits off, thanks to Don Logan, ah, I mean Wayne Rooney ("Sexy Beast", anyone?). "Yes, Roundtree!!!" he screamed, as he buried his boot in Carvalho's calvalhos. But now, any thinking fan will be pulling for the magical Zizou and the elegant Henry and the hideous Barthez to make it to Berlin, and a date with fellow battlefield pushovers Italy.
It's temptingly easy to crib the match down to Figo versus Zidane, midfield partners in Madrid for years, talismanic presences, two of the richest players ever. But the real key could be Deco, returned from suspension against England and playing superbly as playmaker in the middle, against Claude Makelele, defensive midfielder deluxe, who easily crushed Brazil's "Magic Circle" and made the tournament favorites look like a weekend rec league side. If Deco can succeed where Ronaldinho failed, Portugal has an excellent chance.
If it comes down to coaches, take "Big Phil" Scolari over Raymond "Rolaids" Domenech, if only for Scolari's Bill Parcells-like charismatic force.
Figo, Maniche, Ricardo, Nuno Valente, and Carvalho all carry yellows into the game, and with their cynical approach—diving, cheap shots, grabbing the ball, time wasting, anything to break the rhythm of the opponent—one and all are in jeopardy of missing the final even if they get past France. The Frogs can't be all casual-like—Thuram, Sagno, Saha, Veiera, the electric Ribery, and Zidane himself are all in yellowland. Wouldn't it be so sadly ironic if Zizou were to lead his team to the final in his last Cup, then miss it due to a pileup of yellows?
These two nations don't have much of a history against one another, save two European Championship clashes, also in the semis. Both went down to the end—in 2000, Zidane struck a penalty three minutes from a shootout to put France into the final (which they would win). Then there was Michel Platini's famous winner in extra time in 1984, again sending the French to the final, and victory (go watch it on youtube quickly before the game starts). Zidane was a ballboy during that match, amazingly enough.