June 16, 2008

Ze Germans move on

by Dan Bilicki In: Soccer

The first two quarterfinal matches are now set with hardly any drama this afternoon. With Germany making Austria join co-host Switzerland on the sidelines coupled with Poland being sent packing by a Croatian side resting many of its players, we’re looking at Turkey-Croatia and — more interestingly — a rematch of the World Cup’s third place game, Germany-Portugal.

Firstly, it must be said that while I may not have watched as many soccer games as some more entrenched enthusiasts, I have never seen — or heard of not one, but both side’s managers being “sent off.” Even more hilarious, how funny was it to see German manager Joachim Low sitting beside suspended middlefielder Bastian Schweinsteiger and Germany’s chancellor or all people. Imagine a baseball coach getting the boot and walking up into the stands to sit next George W. Bush because that’s what the equivalent would be.

It has to be said: Michael Ballack’s goal was one of the best of the tournament so far. That may be a biased opinion though.

How about Mario Gomez — who I wouldn’t be starting anymore if I was running this team — botching a wide-open, one-timer into a wide-open net from roughly two feet away early on against Austria? Let’s put it this way, when an announcer said that it was worst miss he had ever seen, I whole-heartedly believed him. And that was a man who watches soccer games for a living.

You have to wonder what was wrong with Poland. This team qualified ahead of a strong Portuguese team and was supposed to be an offensive force. Instead they scored only one goal against a mediocre Austrian side — that the referee later acknowledged should have been called offside — and only got one point in their three games.

And finally, there’s no denying how much of a feel-good story it was when Ivan Klasnic scored for Croatia. In case you weren’t paying attention to the analysts, Klasnic suffered from kidney failure about a year and a half ago and had to undergo not one, but two kidney transplants since (his body rejected the first attempt). So good for him, his story is truly one of persistence and resilience.

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