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With Italy in finals, World Cup soccer a must-watch game

July 09, 2006|by TONY MULIERI

I've been trying to fulfill my planetary responsibility by keeping up with the World Cup.

That's the world soccer championships, if anyone in the USA cares.

Actually, I hurt my back recently, and soccer takes up a large chunk of time when you're watching TV.

I've found there's a lot of downtime in soccer.

On Tuesday, the semifinal game between host team Germany and Italy went about 118 minutes before Italy scored the first goal of the game in overtime. You could fit in a whole episode of "Rawhide" on the new Hallmark channel and still not miss a whole lot of the soccer game.

Italy won 2-0 in overtime (they say two-nil on TV), and will play France in the finals today in Berlin.

Goals seem to be rare in world play.

I've come to liken a goal scored in World Cup soccer to a car accident: No one sees it coming, there's occasionally a head involved and there's a lot of people pointing fingers after it's over.

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But the announcers don't seem to care that much about goals. They talk about how "creative" the players are, even when they seem to be stuck in the middle of the field, battling for possession. They talk about the "options" they have on the field.

I have noticed that these world-class teams do pass the ball backwards a lot to reset things so they can go forward. That's pretty creative.

But, you know, soccer is so popular on the world stage, if not here in the U.S.

It's so popular that some players just go by one name. When I was growing up, there was Pele. That's all you had to say. Pele.

Brazil, one of the favorites going into the 2006 tournament, had a couple of players this year who just go by their last names. There's Ronaldo. There's Ronaldinho.

France has Zidane (pronounced "Zee-Don") and Henry (pronounced "Awn-ree.")

I think the USA's problem was we didn't have anyone who went by only their last name. I think Landon Donovan was one of our best players, and he had two last names stuck together.

Ah, but to get that distinction to go by one name, you have to earn it. You have to "Bend it like Beckham" to get that kind of attention. England's David Beckham is one of the most recognizable athletes in the world. All you have to say is Beckham - and the world's soccer fans know.

I'm pulling for Italy today. Who knows, I might have a cousin on the team. My Grandma Rosa would be rooting for Italy, too, if she were alive. She would root for anything that put Italy, her homeland, in a good light. She hated "The Untouchables" because it made Italians look bad. She could care less about soccer, but it's Italy!

And I think that's why these countries in the World Cup are so passionate about their teams. It's our land against your land, and soccer is the universal sport.

Go, Italy.

I hope they win 1-nil.




Tony Mulieri is managing editor of The Daily Mail. He may be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 7647, or by e-mail at tonym@herald-mail.com.

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