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« Blue states don't do gay rights, either | Main | Goose Stepping Through Baghdad »

July 09, 2006


Your interpretation of the game, and what was lost when Zidane was booted, is dead on. The game lacked much internal tension and relied on the external narrative tension of Zidane's furious efforts to retire in triumph, and Italy's efforts to reclaim the ultimate symbol of soccer nation status, which has eluded them since 1982. I found the first narrative line sympathetic, but after the Zidane story ended abruptly, had no trouble feeling glad for the Italians. While penalty kick finales can be a let down, here it struck me as a rather poetic comeback following the famous Baggio flop in the Italy-Brazil final of '94. Unlike your measured interpretation, much of the ruckus that's surrounded the headbutt incident in the press seems to rely on the unfounded assumption that France would have won if Zidane had stayed in. The game seemed destined to go to penalty kicks long before the 110th minute, and Zidane would hardly have replaced Trezeguet in the kicking line-up. The other active line of speculation relies on unfounded assumptions regarding why Zidane behaved as he did. It holds either that Materazzi must have said something racist, with the implication that it would have justified Zidane's childish behavior, or more veiled and pernicious in some of its racial overtones, that Zidane acted on an innate thuggishness, special to him and not just to the sport. I thought the most impressive and noteworthy player of the game was Buffon, the Italian goalkeeper, but as you say, Zidane's redcard is likely to be what makes the history books, tant pis.

Minor pedantic point: Azzurri is plural of Azzurro, so Azzuris is a redundant plural.

Thanks Anna. I don't know Italian but I did know that Azzuri is the plural. I didn't notice the typo - it is corrected.

The speculation about Zidane is rife. Apart from a possible racial slur against him / his mother, I also read that Materazzi tweaked his nipple during the initial encounter. Is that even possible? Who knows? But whatever it was, the head butt was totally unnecessary. Zidane knew as well as anyone else where the match stood at that point. If he couldn't show restraint as an adult and the team captain, then he just wrote the fitting script to his own swan song. In any case, I don't think he will go down in uttter infamy. This too shall pass into the dusty pages of soccer history and people will just remember it with mild amusement and regret.

No, France was not destined to win had things gone differently, Zizou or no Zizou. The Italian defense was terrific throughout, including the bold save by Buffon from that "other" header from Zidane. And frankly, I thought Italy had alreay won in regulation time. That second goal, yet another header, from Luca Toni was not offside.

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