I was mistaken last week when I said there were no more marquee match-ups in the second round
. I had forgotten about France-Spain, which was certainly a marquee match-up. And it proved to be a pretty good match, too. I thought Spain would win but felt it could go either way. In the end, the wiley veterans prevailed over the young lions. Spain led 1-0 for more than half the match. Then France equalized. And in the final 10 minutes, France scored twice to put it away.
The first of the third round's marquee match-ups was played a few hours ago, Argentina versus Germany. Argentina was arguably the better team and took an early 1-0 lead. But then their goalkeeper got injured and had to be subbed out. Shortly thereafter Germany tied it up when their all-team leading scorer, Klose, worked his magic again. (Both the assist and the goal were beautiful headers!) Neither team could break through again. It went to penalty kicks, where Lehmann (I wish he would change his name) stopped two and Argentina's back-up stood no chance. Germany advanced.
The current match is not very sexy. Italy and Ukraine. The Ukraine is very lucky to have made it this far. (Well, so is Italy, but I won't go there.) Previous Ukraine matches, I've been torn: I've wanted to root for Tunisia and Switzerland but realized that I should probably pull for Ukraine. No question today, though. The only teams I dislike more than Italy are Mexico (hate them, hate them, hate them) and maybe
Colombia, Costa Rica, and Serbia & Montenegro—I even like Brazil better, because at least Brazil plays the beautiful game beautifully and doesn't rely on poor sportsmanship the way these other teams do. So, yeah, go Ukraine! (As I write this, they're trailing 1-0.)
I just spoke to Tania. She says all her friends have been texting or e-mailing her about Ukraine's success, and she has found it loathe to explain she doesn't really follow the World Cup. She admitted she might
check in on the score from time to time tonight, though.
The remaining two third-round games should both be fantastic, England-Portugal and Brazil-France. In the latter, you have the two teams who have won the past three cups. In the other game, you have a talented England squad against the team I picked to win this year's Cup. Both teams will be missing key players. England lost their top striker, Michael Owen, to torn knee ligaments, and I believe they have another player who's questionable. Portugal will be without three top players, two because of red-card suspensions (courtesy of last week's red-and-yellow card-fest between Portugal and the Netherlands) and one due to injury. It should still be a close and exciting match. Though I've never liked Portugal much in the past, I will be rooting hard for them tomorrow.
Ohmygosh, I just saw the Panamanian flag hanging in the soccer stadium in Germany! That was unexpected.