Congratulations Espana. Like the bulls of Pamplona--these men treated Italy like the local China shop. Three major tournaments won in a row--a first for any nation--seemingly steeped in eternal glory.
The Italians, who could muster just a few half chances, were dominated 4-0. The silky smooth Spaniards had energy to burn and reserves that could rival any opposing club. I’ve compiled (in convenient list form) a few notes from the match, the atmosphere, the punditry. Until next time, enjoy.
1. No More Lalas
ESPN anchored their broadcast with a slew of odd characters. Cameos from Kasey Keller and Brian McBride kept it Americano. The marble-mouthed Michael Ballack quickly found out that on air ESL training can come off as smoothly as sandpaper in a sawmill. The mercurial Bob Ley, though by mispronouncing (is that Missouri journalism?) various world athletes discredited the jolly roger, was sublimely adequate. A calming force. Boy wonder, Taylor Twellman has the looks to be the next John Harkes minus the cohort philandering and has done nicely in the transition from Philly Union colorman to national city-slick commentator. Top honors go to Wigan manager, Roberto Martinez, who always posited collected commentary with charm and loquacity. And of course, the trough led us to the ever-cantankerous Alexi Lalas. The floppy, fire-haired voice of American soccer has constantly questioned verbiage, customs and manners. His self-important demeanor kills the frivolity of any engagement while leaving a stick-in-the mud taste in our mouths. Please can this wet blanket--the world doesn’t need any more glory day stories of the 1994 World Cup. He’s done a nice job transitioning the American viewer into the enormity of FIFA events, it’s just time for some new blood.
2. The Balotelli Meme
Hearing Linda Cohn call the man ‘Baletti’ after supposedly knowing her “European soccer” was cringeworthy. I’m starting to think people around here are noticing the rock-star antics of Super Mario (a good 3 years after the soccer gods blessed us with this maniac.) His shirtless celebra-stance in defiance marked one of the more memorable moments of the tournament. Will the Mario meme transcend any preconceived notions about the sport? Will the American audience continue to follow the Balotelli vs. Mancini debacle going into this upcoming Manchester City season? Every sport needs its pantomime--its town cryer. Balo’s skill has risen to the occasion-a complete 180 seemed to occur over a three week period. 60 degrees from pounding the ground against Spain in their opening clash (a yellow card occurred soon after), another 60 in his lashed out goal against poor Ireland (with Leonardo Bonucci immediately stifling Mr. Balotelli’s mouth for fear camera-ready Italian vitriol,) to the final 60 degrees--a somber Mario, defeated by the mighty Spain, a young boy with tears in his eyes. Twellman suggested that this transformation will catapult Mario into superstardom. The tools
are there, I just don’t know if I’m ready to forget magical moments like this infamous back heel.
3. No End in Sight
A graphic flashed on the screen showing the current ages of the Spanish national team. Fast forward and in less than two years, we can already assume that the Spanish side are favorites in Brazil. The Germans really fell flat in this year’s tourney, but remain best suited to pique the brazen bull. Brazil seems like the ultimate stage for international football, but a future loss will never tarnish what this team has just done. Not only did they cruise through this tournament--they barely played a few of their ‘fatigued’ players/not included were the injured goal mech David Villa and the pugnacious central defender, Carlos Puyol. Players like Negredo, Llorente, Pedro, Cazorla and Mata are biding their time. Brazil looks like a statement twilight tournament for players like Xavi, Torres and Alonso. But Iniesta and Busquets will be there, as will David Silva- a player who only looks to be getting better and Fabregas, quite possibly the best in the hole, diamond-forward in the world. David De Gea already has impressed in his first year in top flight football, but Iker Casillas looks to be one of those Gigi Buffon goaltenders, still here 10 years from now. The future is la roja.
*Every American dude studying abroad in Madrid.
*Freakin’ Gerard Pique
*The Balotelli doppelganger
*Torres and Mata--Chelsea “scrubs” who still managed goals.
*Torres for somehow winning the Golden Boot from Mario Gomez on minutes played--barely saw the dude play aside from the Ireland game
*Vincente Del Bosque for laughing at “boring” football
*Cesare Prandelli for making the Italians love their football again
*The majestic sounds of Sir Ian Darke and Steve ‘Macca’ McManaman--this pair is unmatched
*Head ref Portuguese Pedro Proenca (or as 4-4-2 magazine likes to call him--’the guy who’s been around for 14 years and hasn’t annoyed anyone yet.’)
*Super Mario’s shelf-life
*Il Canto Degli Italiani--can those boys belt out a natty anthem or what?
*Jordi Alba- he will be a stud for Barcelona and Spain for the next decade
*Sangria and tapas
*German singer Oceania and her incessant Euro anthem “Endless Summer,” may we never hear it again. I never thought I’d be clamoring for Shakira’s “Waka Waka.”
*The Euro ending ceremony promoters. The Highlights Magazine inspired soccer simulation went over about as well as the Clayton Bigsby reveal.
*Andrea Pirlo--the tears of a maestro.
*Daniele Di Rossi- he needs to regain the spark that made him world class
*Every Spanish fan that Ole’s a pass-we get it. You guys like triangles.
*The ESPN first half technical difficulty—Right—all those heavy storms in the Northeast.
*Polkranish venues--please never hold a major tournament here again. When your best moment is the Irish singing a depression tune over two weeks ago, then that’s just not good enough. Farewell Kiev, Donesk, Posnan, Gdansk; the angst was met with apathy and silence.
*Seven Nation Army chants
*The Lalas front mullet
*Thiago Motta—it’s tough being the injured third sub
*The Three Lions
*The fifth penalty taker