Final thoughts on the 2006 World Cup

The champions - Italy. Not the most interesting team in the tournament, but then Italian teams rarely are. Fabulously solid in defence, led so ably by Fabio Cannavaro, and Lippi deserves great admiration for his achievement. In many ways, they are a more expensive version of the Greece team that won the 2004 European Championships - didn't score many, conceded fewer, proved extremely hard to beat.

France - the more adventurous and exciting team in the final, but just couldn't score a second goal. Should still be proud of having done so well.

Zinedine Zidane - extraordinary player in every sense. Who will forget his final appearance? Scores a penalty of amazing nonchalance/arrogance, pulls the creative strings in midfield for much of the match, then gets incensed by something Materazzi says and nuts him in the chest. Fantastic! Like Eric Cantona turned up to 11. The player of the tournament without a shadow of a doubt. The only thing he didn't do and should've was to walk off with the World Cup as he trudged off the pitch.

Portugal - the most exciting team according to FIFA, which just proves what a busload of tosspots they truly are. Portugal were unimaginative in almost every game they played, hardly looked like scoring against anyone (even teams reduced to 10, sometimes 9 men), and cheated, dived and whinged at every opportunity. Thank goodness Big Phil Scolari turned down the England job.

Talking of which, what a joke England were. The hype surrounding the squad was ridiculous, and proved exactly how over-rated the Premiership is. There are two world-class players in the team - Rooney and Gerrard - and Eriksson was incapable of playing to their strengths. Lampard was dreadful, Beckham anonymous, the central defenders erratic, Robinson suddenly looked vulnerable, and we had no attacking options. Hargreaves proved himself to be a good player, Crouch did well too, but overall it was a dismal showing. Let's hope McClaren can do a better job than the Swede.

And finally, last and definitely least, Sepp Blatter. If ever an organization were a reflection of its leader, FIFA is it. "Referees should clamp down on cheating and bad tackles" was the order until the Russian ref Ivanov did exactly that in the Portugal-Holland game, at which point Herr Blather declared his performance to be unacceptable. He said England were dull, then denied it and said they were a great team. They clearly aren't, and he clearly doesn't know when to shut up. As for the ticket prices and the prostitution of football to whichever corporations will chuck the most cash FIFA's way, nothing really needs to be said. If only The Blather would take a vow of silence too.
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