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Saturday, June 28, 2008

euro 2008: the beautiful semi-final game

san francisco is a great town to gather with fellow soccer aficionados and watch some good football go down.

the euro cup 2008 has been some of the most exciting soccer i've witnessed -- with 3 of the 4 favorites going down in the quarterfinals. i know that purists will tell me that the spain v italy quarterfinal was a mesmerizing display of tactical defense. but to me, italy just looked like a bunch of thugs fouling in the penalty box taking advantage of the referee's reluctance to call fouls in that zone. and don't even get me started on luca toni, the most overrated striker/primadonna in the tournament.

to me, the germany v turkey semi-final game was the best match of soccer i've ever witnessed. keep in mind that i watched this game 1) at home, 2) hours delayed on TiVo (not live), 3) I had already heard the outcome of the match, and 4) there were 3 blackouts that caused the international TV feed to go down and caused all the stations covering this game around the world to miss 2 of the 5 exciting goals.

germany going in were the heavy favorites; turkey, the cinderella team that had come from behind 3 times in the tournament, had nearly all of their key players out due to yellow card accumulation or injury.

but turkey played their hearts out, like they had nothing to lose. the turks tied it up with a beautiful goal at 86 minutes (4 minutes left in regulation) and the crowds went nuts. then, the experienced germans answered back with a give & go up the left side with a defensive fullback who took it and drilled it "like a $40 million dollar striker" into the back of the net. at 89 minutes. with less than 30 seconds in regulation left to go (not accounting for injury time). by a defensive player who hadn't scored a goal since a qualifying match in 2006. sure, the team with the experience and poise under pressure won out, but the turks deserve a ton of credit for going on the attack with a bunch of upstarts who collectively had 20% of the international major game experience of the germans. they played audaciously, with heart.

sure the right team won. but turkey made them fight for it up until the very end. this game would turn anyone into a soccer fan for life. there's a reason the brazilians call this "the beautiful game", and it was reinforced to me on my TiVo on Wednesday night, @ home with my 2 sleeping kids, cheering silently and jumping up and down in my living room with a smile as big as philipp lahm's here.

ps. does anyone else think that schweinstieger looks like the bad guy in rocky 4? he gives me the willies.

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