I had predicted that Germany and the Netherlands would meet to decide the World Cup, which makes me no better or worse than many official prognosticaters, and I cost less. I had thought that after the way Germany demolished the English and the Argentines and Spain’s anemic performance against Portugal and Paraguay that the match between the two would be no contest. At least I was right about that.
From the outset it was apparent that La Furia Roja had a simple game plan: get in the German half of the field and stay there. The Spanish pressure was intense; one commentator used the word ‘unrelenting’, which was a bit of an understatment. Every time the Germans cleared the ball it was swarmed by the Spaniards, which along with making a long day in goal for the German keeper didn’t allow Die Mannschaft an opportunity to get set up or even get much past midfield.
About halfway through the second half the Germans looked like they were tired of being pushed around and put some pressure on the Spanish end, and did get a couple of shots on goal but to no avail. A Puyol header scored the game’s only, and it turned out, winning, goal. So Spain goes to the World Cup Final for the first time and Germany goes home.
When people have asked me what the big deal is with the Tour de France I usually tell them that it’s like having a 21-day Super Bowl. For better or worse it is generally held as the biggest cycling race on the calendar and the only bike race most Americans know, although the Q-score for the Tour of California rises annually. The fact that the only place to watch the cycling season is on an obscure cable network doesn’t help matters. Versus, nee’ Outdoor Life Network, does a decent job of covering the season, although when they were OLN they would broadcast the other two Grand Tours, the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta Espana. I will admit to preferring the old method of picking up the race’s native TV feed as this gave a nice international flavor to the coverage. Still, you can’t go wrong with Phil and Paul in the booth.
It’s early days yet but the biggest surprise has been Alesandro Petacchi’s two wins thus far. ‘Ale-Jet’ is at the point in his career where the good days are few and the great days are none, but he has somehow reached back and found his form from five years ago, much to the consternation of a certain Mark Cavendish. Suddenly the ‘Manx Missile’ is looking entirely mortal. I have noticed that the other sprinters have learned from watching Cavendish the last couple of years, and will slot in behind his wheel rather than stick their noses in the wind the last few hundred meters, in effect using the Columbia train to their advantage. It’ll be interesting to see how HTC-Columbia adapt to this tactic.
Like most sports, cycling hands out it’s share of nicknames to those who are good enough for long enough, but unlike hockey, where nicknames tend to be diminutives of a player’s given name (The Great One being an exception), or football, which emphasizes a person’s physical attributes, cycling nicknames tend to speak to a riders style or abilities.
There are about as many nicknames as there are riders, but the best in the sport have a cachet all their own. Thus we have Il Pirata, The Badger, The Professor, The Falcon, The Eagle of Toledo, The Kaiser, The Lion King and, of course, The Cannibal. One might almost say that these nicknames have been retired, as the holders stand above the rest for one reason or another. Just for fun, if you know who these gentleman are, leave a note in the Comments section.