What a sports weekend! The Tour de France rolls, while Wimbledon has reached the men’s and women’s finals, and of course the World Cup wraps. Of course the Tour is only ending the first of many grueling weeks, so the peloton has begun to settle a bit. On the All England Lawn Tennis & Croquet Club, Muaresmo kicked the nerves and hoisted the “Rosewater Dish,” while Roger Federer is on track to go deeper into the history books with a fourth consecutive championship; yet his current nemesis Raphael Nadal is all that stands in the way. Nadal seems like the only player on the tour that ever has a chance of beating the Swiss number one, beating him the last four matches. It has become a rivalry of impressive note. Then, there is the World Cup.
Well, my prediction was flat wrong, as Italy looks dangerously positioned to win it all. The Germans seemed to lose some of the attacking spirit in their last two games, although Italy’s defense is historically world renowned. In a lot of ways, this reminds me of 1990, only in reverse. Then Germany raised the cup in Italy, when the then hosts seemed clearly the team to beat, also with the tourney’s leading scorer, but ended up with a third place finish. The Azzurri are the clear favorites going into tomorrow’s match, but Les Bleus cannot be counted out easily. In Zinedine Zidane’s final game of his incandescent career, the sheer force of his inspirational presence is an enigmatic x-factor (or should that be z-factor?). Moreover, this French squad retains a core of players from their ’98 championship. Still, Italy has improved and grown in their strength and quality of play with each game. Considering that they have yet to allow a goal from the opposition and their goals have come from ten different players, I just don’t see them losing the final, despite the Zizou affect. In fact, I can actually see Italy rising up and running away with a wider margin of victory, like two or three goals. My only hope is that it is an exciting game played with flair and not one of the conservative foul fests that can sometimes infect the final. I now doubt will be pulling for the Azzurri.