Friday, July 07, 2006

World Cup Post #15

Zizou and Cannavaro battling it out for more than just the major trophy

TWO months ago I wrote a piece eulogising Zinedine Zidane, sad about his impending retirement, yet hopeful he could light it up for one last time on the ultimate stage in Germany. In all honest, it was muted hope, particularly as his form over the past couple of seasons has replicated that of his Real Madrid team – patchy and tired.

In it I begged that, during this world cup, we’d be talking about Zizou in present tense rather than about his past glories, as has become the tendency of late.

Not only has he backed up these hopes with a superlative display against Brazil in the quarter final, he is now on the verge of lifting, as France’s captain, the trophy that matters most.

It would be an image befitting his legendary status, Zidane ending his career at the highest point in the world game.

It is a fairytale thought, but the reality is it could just as easily be the Italian skipper Fabio Cannavaro that accepts the trophy from Sepp Blatter sometime between 6 and 7am (AEST) on Monday.

While either of these two great players will lift the world cup on behalf of their countries, they should also be battling for an individual prize that would be befitting their performances at this world cup.

The Golden Ball is awarded to the outstanding player of the tournament, as voted by the world’s press, and when the 10 nominations were announced by FIFA’s technical study group yesterday, Zidane and Cannavaro were among the standouts.

Part of the criteria was that the players team had to reach the semi-finals as a minimum, which ruled out the likes of Argentina’s Riqueleme and Rodriguez, but in a tournament that has been more notable for demonstrating the strengths of the collective over the individual, the list is fairly expected.

Perhaps only Gennaro Gattuso, a vital cog in the Italian midfield, Frank Ribery, a refreshing addition to France’s attack, Philip Lahm and Torsten Frings, both impressive for the host, can feel unlucky not to be on it.

Indeed, those that should be feeling lucky are Ballack and Henry, big names but peripheral figures in comparison to the other eight.

Zidane, Vieira, Cannavaro, Zambrotta, Pirlo, Buffon, Klose, and Maniche have all had outstanding tournaments, and the winner appears likely to come from one of the finalists.

There is little doubt that Zidane has played the most influential game, the one that will live in the memory, but the judges will have to decide if this performance packs more punch than say Cannavaro, who has been phenomenal over a number of games.

While Australians dissected the unfortunate Grosso ‘dive’ and Buffon was awarded the official man of the match award, it was Cannavaro’s game that illuminated the second round in Kaiserslautern, weathering everything the Socceroos threw at a 10-man Italy. He monstered the much bigger Viduka on this night, winning everything on the ground and in the air, and all of it was clean.

Indeed, Cannavaro has yet to be awarded an official man of the match award by the technical study group, but there is little doubt that without him the Azzuri wouldn’t be in the final. His performance in the semi final was top notch, but again the official award went elsewhere, this time to the creative Pirlo.

This was Pirlo’s second award after his opening game heroics, but his performance against the Socceroos was muted, at times invisible.

Perhaps the evenness of the Italians – Zambrotta has also been outstanding since switching to the right and Buffon has been solid – may just spread the votes among them, opening the door for Zizou or Vieira to take the Golden Ball.

Vieira was largely responsible for lifting France from its slumber against Togo, then backed it with an outstanding driving performance against Spain in the second round and wasn’t far behind Zidane in that quarter final.

Without Vieira, France wouldn’t have been in a position for Zidane to remind us of his greatness.
The smart money would be on Zizou adding this prestigious crown to his vast collection, but an Italian victory might just shift the emphasis in the direction of Cannavaro or Pirlo. Whoever has the biggest influence on the final would certainly deserve the honour.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey mate great blog, I really enjoy reading it !
Viva The Revolution!

Round Ball Footy is taking over Australia!

Sat. Jul. 08, 11:03:00 am AEST  
Blogger Mike Salter said...

Excellent comments. I agree that Vieira has been almost as crucial to France's success as Zidane, particularly as regards waking them from their slumber in the group stage. Enjoy your blog here very much, I've linked to it on mine:

Sun. Jul. 09, 07:49:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Thanks guys for your great feedback...

It's great to have others out there, in Australia, supporting the greatest game on earth.

Like me, I'm sure you've been wrapped with how the nation was united behind the Socceroos, a feeling that has blown me away.

To have people from all over the country getting up close and personal with the team we have supported for life is just fantastic.

Keep up the great stuff...


Sun. Jul. 09, 09:12:00 pm AEST  

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