2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyThe Italians broke up the biggest street party in post-War German history, and in that same, intriguing midnight hour they possibly altered the destiny of their own lives and their own corrupted cradle of football as well.They now meet France and for all those who rejoice,2006 FIFA World Cup GermanyThe Italians broke up the biggest street party in post-War German history, and in that same, intriguing midnight hour they possibly altered the destiny of their own lives and their own corrupted cradle of football as well.They now meet France and for all those who rejoice that Zinedine Zidane, Lilian Thuram et al have revived their careers, be in no doubt that Italy will arrange a suffocating strait jacket to mark the elderly Zizou from reclaiming his crown.By knocking out the hosts, and by doing it the long, tense, cruel way, Italy put us all-partisan or neutral- through the wringer of nervous emotions. This was not a classic of football skills. The Germans are athletic and unyielding; the Italians are cunning and unyielding.But as they clawed at one another’s willpower, staying power and powers of concentration, the 65,000 watching had that rare experience of being involved in a plot whose end is beyond imagination. Sport can be the author of its own mystery and dark theatre. It engages emotions, it exhausts players and audience, and leaves its sting on us all.MAGNIFIQUE: France’s Zinedine Zidane drove his team forwardItaly might well flow with sweeter movement in Berlin. Their first purpose will be to call time on Zidane and to answer definitively the question of whether we have seen here a miraculous reincarnation of Zidane’s lost youth or the fact that after eight years, this World Cup, through a combination of steamy weather and lost adventure, regressed to a pace that suits him. He has been one of the finest sportsmen of his generation-but Andrea Pirlo, the Italian, is a younger playmaker. Men playing on borrowed time must earn their glory the same as everyone else.Argentina had looked the most complete side, but the most hypnotic game was Mexico vs Argentina. I say that because I’m beguiled by the Latin guile. If you can’t go with the flow of your feelings at a game, why go to the game at all?Mexicans in their sombreros and Argentines with their banners simply claimed Leizig’s old Zentralstadion as their own. They draped their colours around it, in the process blotting out the multi-million dollar advertising hoardings of the FIFA global sponsors. I was comfortable with that, too. Sport and commercialism meet head on at the World Cup, and FIFA are sometimes like Gestapo officers in removing anyone, anything that gets in the way of their precious sales messages.FORCEFUL: Ballack vs Totti, Italy vs Germany the eternal contestI’m being provocative for a reason. At no time in the past five weeks have we felt remotely uncomfortable, or unwelcome in the land, which finally has dared to invite the world to come and play, and not to constantly hark back to Hitlerian evil that few living people were responsible for.That is over, and the most heartfelt thing Juergen Klinsmann, the man who rebuilt Germany’s team, the “Mannschaft” in his own adventurous image, said was: “We are hugely disappointed, but you can only compliment the team. They’re a young team, it’s amazing the spirit they showed, the character. They made a whole country feel really proud. It’s something very special to play a World Cup in your own country. It showed a whole new German face to the world.”A new German face, indeed. It was a face that transforms sport because it has taken the game out of stadium to the masses. Everyone is challenged now, not the least the Board of Control for Cricket in India because there is a balance to be struck between selling the broadcasting rights and showing the face of sport to ever-wider, often disenfranchised audiences.There have been, of course, images that have no bearing on Germany. Zidane arrived at this World Cup a “spent” force, a man on the knees of his career. He looked haggard and old against South Korea. Thankfully, Zidane summoned the majesty inside him, sweated off the pounds, and gave us some new pearls of his movement. In a tournament where few fresh individuals impressed themselves, it was the Golden Oldie we shall remember, as we did at his peak full eight years ago.HELP AT HAND: Klinsmann’s team lifted a new German nationLess remembered, best forgotten, was the boast of England that it was a team whose time was ripe to make the world tremble. No one did, not even the minnows, as England, ill-served by their dull 5 million a year Swedish coach Sven Goran Eriksson, and illbred in the way Wayne Rooney committed bodily harm on a fallen opponent, got what they deserved: humiliation.David Beckham might be the icon of the world’s teenagers, but he is finally exposed as a triumph of marketing, not among the soccer greats. He can sell a shirt, a perfume, a car-but he lacks the quality to sell a dummy on the wing or to beat an opponent by speed or thought. The game can put its stamp on the growing generation, and few things are better than to see a child emulate the beauty of a man trying to make the ball dance to the touch of his feet. It requires so little money, so much time, and at its best a great deal of enthusiasm and imagination.The finest goal of this World Cup came and went without me actually knowing at the time how wondrous it was. Argentina’s Esteban Cambiasso scored it against Serbia & Montenegro and, while we could appreciate the exquisite back heel of Hernan Crespo to put the ball into his path, and the instant shot from Esteban, it took a mathematician or a TV analyst to reveal that Argentina possessed and passed that ball 24 times without an opponent getting a touch.The mathematics might be hard work and spoil the instant joy for those of us who are children of all ages so that we get our thrills, some of them, watching grown men play. If we could dismiss the compulsions of sports that way, maybe we would see little virtue in the drama spun out by Italy.It wouldn’t have been the case that Angela Merkel, the first woman in her lifetime to be German Chancellor, and Romano Prodi, Italy’s new prime minister, were side by side in Dortmund, drained of emotion with the rest of us. “Germany vs Italy is the great, eternal match,” Prodi wrote to Merkel. “In the past, it gave us (Italy) the greatest joy.”It’s funny how politicians are drawn to the importance of sports when their nation is winning. When Germany and Italy met at the 1970 World Cup semifinals, the joy was an Italian triumph, 4-3 in extra time. When they met in the 1982 final, Italy won again, 3-1. That time the hero was Paolo Rossi, a goal poacher on amnesty after a jail sentence for what Italy calls ‘sporting fraud’-a euphemism for being so corrupt he conspired to fix matches.Almost a quarter of a century on, the glorious goal by defender Fabio Grosso and then another one from Alessandro del Piero that put Italy into the final, comes against a backcloth of another scandalo. Thirteen players in Italy’s squad are from the four Juventus, AC Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio-charged with systemic match fixing in the Italian league.The players, surely, are innocents. Prodi says that Italian football needs to be deeply reformed “but the Azzurri are expressing the positive value of our people-commitment, fantasy and talent”. Now that the Africans, the Asians, and all of the Americas are gone and the field is down to two Europeans in the German backyard, maybe for the good of the game we should believe that the Azzurri, Italy’s chosen sons, are the purists he sees them to be. Something nags, however. It is the conclusion I drew the last time Italy won the World Cup. “A victory,” I wrote, “deserved, but dangerous.”advertisementadvertisementadvertisementGERMANY 2006: FROM THE SIDELINESScolari, the last BrazilianBrazilian dentist Dr Joseph Rosio has advised Ronaldhinho to get his teeth fixed. In a new German football magazine Rund (Round), Rosio estimated that Ronaldhinho’s performance was reduced by “22 per cent” because he couldn’t breathe properly due to his large front teeth.After the exit of Brazil, a local barber in Passo Fundo, in Brazil’s Rio Grand do Sul, home town of Portugal coach Luis Felipe Scolari said, “Scolari now has to take his revenge.he is the only Brazilian left in the tournament.”Scientists calculated that on an average World Cup day, 2,00,000 litres of urine is deposited in the 300 mobile toilets on Berlin’s Fan Mile. Exactly why they were calculating the figure has not precisely been understood.Germany’s Miroslav Klose, the top goal scorer at the end of the semifinals, honed his skills, as a child, by kicking a ball with his left foot aiming to hit a lightswitch in his bedroom.The 2006 World Cup has been the most actively refereed: 272 yellow cards were given out up to the round of 16, more than all the yellow cards handed out in the 2002 World Cup in Japan and Korea.FIFA say that since the 1974 Cup footballers have become taller and heavier. Comparing nine teams, FIFA found that today’s players are on average 3 cm taller and 3 kg heavier than the 1974 contestants.More than 2,26,000 came to see the World Cup teams in their single compulsory training session open to the public. Hosts Germany drew the biggest crowd of 42,000.European parliamentarian Daniel Cohn-Bendit explained to Die Tageszeitung weekly why he respected French coach Raymond Domenech, “More than Jacques Chirac… Domenech stopped France from collapsing, Chirac did not.””All people do not like me and I understand that they don’t. Sometimes I think if I had to deal with me, I would hate myself.”-French coach Raymond Domenech comes clean.Gabrielle Hanteljung, worker on the much-maligned German Railway network told a local newspaper in Cologne, “It’s not very often that German trains are greeted with Mexican waves.”On their stirring run to the semifinals, the German team watched motivational films featuring their own match hightlights played to Eminem’s Lose Yourself and the Black Eyed Peas’ Let’s Get It Started.The Shanghai Daily reported that three people in China have died due to World Cup excitement. Doctors advised World Cup viewers not to drink alcohol, to “control themselves and watch out for their blood pressure”.In their first match, every French player wore a wristband with injured striker Djibril Cisse’s name on it.