Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Ukraine 0 Switzerland 0 (3-0 PKs)

It may not have been pretty, but Ukraine will surely take it. And for a team as handsomely-challenged as Ukraine, I'm sure aesthetics mean little to them.

Good lord, have you taken a look at the haircuts on some of these guys? Hysterical. I mean, you can't make this stuff up. There's mullets and mustaches all over the field, and apparently no combs in Ukraine. Half of these guys look like they should be getting drunk on cheap beer in the backwoods somewhere while hitting on each other's homely sisters. They look strangely Canadian.

But then, who cares? Ukraine is onto the quarterfinals, and now that they face Italy next, I am their biggest fan.

This game was quite ugly, and aside from both teams hitting the post during a short stretch in the second half, not many legit chances were to be had. And then in the shootout the Swiss showed why they have no army. Apparently, they have no balls. No nerves. No guts. I can honestly say this was the first time I can recall a team missing three consecutive penalty kicks. That's just absurd. And to think, Ukraine's biggest star, Andrii Shevchenko, opened the proceedings by missing his kick, which probably should have served as an omen if the Swiss didn't fold like Peyton Manning in Foxboro on a snowy night in January.

Have you noticed the trend where in every World Cup at least one Eastern European team with several glorious mullets and dudes who look like they should be hanging out in a cemetary in the middle of the night in Transylvania makes a run deep through the bracket? In 1994 it was Romania shocking Argentina and reaching the quarterfinals and Hristo Stoickkov-led Bulgaria shocking Germany to reach the semis, in 1998 it was Croatia in the semis, in 2002 it was Turkey also in the semis, and now Ukraine in 2006. I need to remember this in 2010. This is like the good old "a 12 seed ALWAYS beats a 5 seed in the NCAA tourney" logic. If, say, Belarus qualifies in four years time, I'm booking them for the semifinals.

I can't say I'm disappointed with Switzerlands's exit. I've had a bone to pick with the Swiss ever since they helped knock Ireland out of the World Cup in their qualifying group. Them, one unreal strike by Thierry Henry, and Israel's decision to all of a sudden be a player on the scene. I'm still not over it. Aye, but the lads will be back.

As ugly as this game was, there was one aspect I did appreciate. The ref let the dudes play. All game long, there were several calls that would have not only been whistled in other games in this World Cup, but probably yellow cards. Even more impressive, late in the second half and into extra time, there were a handful of debatable calls that happened in the penalty box - on both ends of the field - and the ref let it all go. Which was wise. Yes, there was some contact, but nothing worth deciding the game over, especially in the knockout stages of a World Cup. As the Italy-Australia debacle proved, a close game should never be decided at such a late, late juncture by a whistle-happy ref unless the foul is atrocious, brutal, blatant, and obvious. This ref, to his credit, let the game play out to its ultimate conclusion on its own. Fair play to him. And fair play to both Ukraine and Switzerland, neither of whom used the ref's decision to let them play as motive to start taking out legs with malicious intent. Both teams played hard but fair. It may have been ugly, but that's all you can ask.


Blogger maeck said...

While Romania surely had a memorable tournament in 1994, they were surpassed by Bulgaria, who beat defending titleholders Germany in the quarters and finished 3rd. Not to mention those haircuts! (google "Trifon Ivanov", for example)

11:32 AM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Touche! Touche! How did I forget Bulgaria in 1994? Thank you! (I'll fix the post.)

And, yes, I'm familiar with Ivanov. Ugliest man ever?


11:40 AM  

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