With the composition of the final settled, a quick look back at the status of our earlier commentary. Our predicted winner -- Argentina -- gone in the quarter finals. The hate team (following on their display against the Netherlands) -- Portugal -- getting to the semis before exiting, although with Cristiano Ronaldo now needing to plan on playing through a season of jeers next season for Man Utd. At some point we mentioned what seemed to us like France's dreadful preparation for the tournament -- inexpicable omissions from the squad, a big friendly a few days before their first match that cost them one of their strikers. But there they are in the final. The political bandwagon-hopping is fairly predictable, but thank God it's not Silvio Berlusconi getting to smirk his way through a final. In unrelated news, Spike Lee is apparently a big France supporter, via his friendship with Thierry Henry.
As for the final itself, we have no strong allegiance. The French players are more familiar from their high profile in the English league, and while it's a nice story to have Italy doing so well despite the domestic corruption scandal in their league, one could invert that logic and wonder whether a country with a domestic league so tainted deserves to win. However we don't buy the view of the Italians as negative, cynical divers -- that role was taken by Portugal -- and one of the most memorable scenes from the tournament was the brilliant camera work focusing on Francesco Totti's eyes as he stepped up to take the penalty against Australia. He wasn't going to miss.
All in all, a very tough final to predict (and not at all like 2002 in that regard). We think Italy have a slight edge and so predict they win, 2-1.
One award before we go, for worst piece of World Cup commentary -- to Iran-Contra operative and all-purpose neocon hawk, Michael Ledeen in the National Review:
In today's "reportage" of the World Cup semifinal between Italy and Germany, the (lefty) Washington Post reported that the game-winning goal was scored on a left-footed kick, while the (righty) Washington Times reported it was scored on a right-footed kick. The Post account was correct, but don't you find it mysteriously symbolic of something or other?
It's unmysteriously symbolic of the total shite that is the Washington Times. [comment also spotted by Belle at Crooked Timber, and at Sadly No.]