Monday, July 03, 2006

Sportszilla's World Cup Semifinal Primer
By Imtiaz Mussa

So the World Cup has now become Euro 2006. We have four European teams left and it’s being played in Germany. Most of the world is still getting over the shock over Brazil being eliminated but here we go.

Germany vs. Italy
July 4 – 3:00pm EST

Last Time They Met
In the last meeting between these teams, Italy hammered Germany 4-1 in a friendly in Florence. Alberto Gilardino, Luca Toni, Daniele De Rossi and Alessandro Del Piero netted, before Robert Huth produced a late consolation goal for the visitors.

Germany midfielder Torsten Frings will miss Tuesday's semi-final against Italy after being banned by FIFA. Frings was found guilty of throwing a punch at Argentina's Julio Cruz during the fight that followed Friday's quarter-final in Berlin. However, captain Michael Ballack and top scorer Miroslav Klose will be fit after shrugging off minor injuries. Italy's Alessandro Nesta, who has missed the last two games with a groin injury, looks certain to miss out.

Referee: Benito Archundia (Mexico)

Germany looked tight against Argentina and cannot win if they look like that against Italy. If they come out and play the exciting open style that they played in group action and against Sweden, they will be heading to the finals. But they will need to penetrate this strong Italian defense. They also need to keep an eye on Luca Toni who got his confidence back after scoring a pair against Ukraine. But more importantly, they need to limit Totti’s touches. The home crowd in Dortmund will carry the Germans to victory.

Final Score
Germany: 2
Italy: 1

France vs. Portugal
July 5 – 3:00pm EST

Last Time They Met
Youri Djorkaeff, Sylvain Wiltord, Mikael Silvestre and Thierry Henry all got on the score sheet when these teams last faced each other. France won a friendly 4-0 on April 25, 2001. That took France's winning run against Portugal to seven matches.

Portugal will welcome back midfield duo Costinha and Deco from suspension for Wednesday's semi-final against France in Munich. That is likely to mean Tiago and Armando Petit, who played in the win over England, will drop to the bench. France coach Raymond Domenech is set to keep faith in the team that beat Spain and Brazil in previous rounds. The win over Brazil was the first time in two years that France have fielded the same team in successive games.

Zinedine Zidane will hang it up after the World Cup and people thought that the end would come against Brazil. But, the French pulled off the shocker sending the Samba Kings home. People now believe that France have a clear path to the finals because they are clicking on all cylinders. That would be a big mistake. The Portuguese got a monster win against England on penalty kicks despite not having Deco and Costinha. Cristiano Ronaldo has stepped up and shown that he is ready to become the face of Portuguese football. The French defense has yet to face a winger who is in the zone like Ronaldo. But more importantly, Deco is back and he will dictate the play in the middle. An upset is brewing.

Final Score
Portugal: 3
France: 1

Other World Cup News
Roberto Carlos Hangs It Up
Brazil defender Roberto Carlos has announced his retirement from international football. The 33-year-old left-back featured in Brazil's 1-0 defeat against France on Saturday which sent the South Americans out of the World Cup. The Real Madrid star amassed 132 caps and scored 11 goals since making his international debut in 1993 and featured in three World Cups. His announcement comes one day after Juninho announced he would be hanging up the yellow jersey.

Rooney was “gobsmacked”
Striker Wayne Rooney said he was "gobsmacked" to be sent off for a stamp on Ricardo Carvalho in England's World Cup quarter-final against Portugal. And he insisted he was not angry with Cristiano Ronaldo, who appeared to encourage the referee to send him off.

Nakata Says Goodbye
Japan midfielder Hidetoshi Nakata has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 29. Nakata, who spent last season on loan at Bolton, played his last game at the World Cup as Japan bowed out at the group stage after losing 4-1 to Brazil. "I decided half a year ago that I would retire after the World Cup in Germany… I will never again stand on the pitch as a professional player. But I won't stop playing the game," Nakata told his official website.


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