Monday, June 15, 2009

The Beautiful Game

A year from now, the world’s attention will shift to South Africa for the FIFA World Cup 2010 Finals, the quadrennial assemblage of global soccer’s best national teams.

A year in advance, a smaller group of international squads have gathered there to compete in the Confederations Cup, a precursor to the big dance. Europe 2008 champions Spain, defending World Cup champions Italy, global soccer powerhouse Brazil and the United States have joined Egypt, Iraq, New Zealand and host country South Africa for the two-week tournament that began yesterday.

And what a tournament it has been so far! Spain picked up right where they left off in dominating Euro 08 with a 5-0 thrashing of New Zealand yesterday, behind a hat trick within the first 15 minutes of play by striker Fernando Torres.

Today brought a barn-burner between Brazil and Egpyt, a seven-goal seesaw thriller that the South American giants were fortunate to win 4-3 on an injury time penalty kick by former world footballer of the year Kaka, he of the recent enormous transfer from Bellingham View faves AC Milan to the mercenary Real Madrid.

Following Brazil’s great escape was Italy vs. the United States. The Americans took a 1-0 lead on a penalty conversion by Landon Donovan, but playing with 10 men after an early red card proved to be too high a mountain to climb for the U.S. They were ultimately outlasted and outclassed by the Azzurri, who won 3-1 behind two terrific goals by the young Giuseppe Rossi who, ironically, was born in the U.S. (“In Clifton, New Jersey, which wasn’t a crime at that time”) to Italian immigrant parents and later chose to play for Italy over his birth country.

Can't wait for more great matches.

Side note to Italy: Immediately burn those hideous alternate kits worn in today's match. Unless there's something I've missed completely, with the U.S. in all white, Italy could easily have worn its blue shirt-blue shorts-blue socks ensemble and not clashed with their opponents. Today's disaster -- think a duller version of Carolina blue for the shirts and a duller version of a Cleveland Browns football jersey color for the shorts and socks -- was atrocious.

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