Ageism: 64 Mundial years (another day, and a Hungry March Band CD to go with an unforgettable show of theirs at a tiny, airless club in Ostkreuz, a neighbourhood in the eastern part of town)
Pallor: Leaden, like the skies
Forecast: Rainy, humid
After being away from soccer for two+ days, it’s time to get back into it tonight -- with the third-place game. Well, I’ve got nothing to say for once, and I’ll leave it regular contributor Ray Skyrme to set it up in his usual rhymin’ way:
GER v POR
Deutschland meets Portugal Saturday
In a match neither team wants to play.
But for national pride
Let both coaches decide
That their best troops will enter the fray.
Let this match be a true exhibition
Of the Game played without inhibition,
Play that thrills and enthuses,
Wherein nobody loses:
Players, spectators, FIFA tradition.
Hmm. Ray be getting’ a little teary-eyed there. Stiff upper lip there, lad, we're almost done.
Let’s look at a game that does mean a little bit more: Sunday’s final. And this fascinating fact from Mark Sandler of the New York Times on chief local organizer Franz Beckenbauer:
Barnstorming from city to city in a twin-engine Augusta helicopter lent by a sponsor, Beckenbauer will have attended 46 of the 64 games by the time he takes his seat in Olympic Stadium in Berlin. He is a familiar presence in the VIP section, usually at the elbow of people like Prince William of England, Diego Maradona of Argentina or Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany.
Good lord. Der Kaiser also took an unscheduled powder to go off and get married. Imagine how many Mundial years he’s added to his life this past month.
Oh, one more thing. The Hungry March Band? They’re so much fun, there oughta be a law. I’ve sweated less running marathons than I did Friday night in east Berlin, trying to dance to their wonderful and clever wall of sound in a performance space barely bigger than the main floor of my house – and my house is small, a typical Toronto WWI-era box -- but jammed with about 100 like-minded enthusiasts, not to mention the 16 or 18 pieces the band brought (I lost count – apparently they’re down a few this tour from the usual 24). They've never played Toronto. I think we have to get them there. JABS presents, or something like that.
Germany 3, Portugal 1. The hosts grab a much-needed shot in the arm after falling to Italy in the semis. The third-place game is pretty much an afterthought unless you're in it, so there was much celebration here Saturday night after this result. With Ballack out and Oliver Kahn getting a start in goal, Schweinsteiger scored two and an own goal accounted for Germany's scoring. Sunday they're having a big pep rally with the Mannschaft at Brandenburg Gate. Expect a million or so to be there, the warmup act to Sunday night's grand finale.
Italy vs France. Well here it is. Only one lineup note on each side: Reserve Louis Saha is out for France after that needless second yellow picked up in the last minutes of the semi, while Alessandro Nesta remains injured and can’t return to partner Fabio Cannavaro, who has only been having one of the greatest defending tournaments of all-time. Couple his performance with Buffon in goal behind him, and I do think this Azzurri is unbreakable. The way Lippi has managed it, he’s always trying to avoid penalties by piling on the attack as the game goes on. The sentiment is mostly on France’s side, with all those elders heading off into the sunset, none of them getting more of the praise (and deservedly so) than Zidane. But Zizou was visibly wilting the final 20+ plus minutes of the semifinal, along with some other of his teammates -- note that Italy gets the extra day's rest going into this one -- and Barthez always seems to be just a bobble away from donning a clown suit. I’ll be very surprised if France wins this. Italy to get one, then add one late to seal it when France begin to wear down. Italy 2, France 0.