World Cup Quarterfinals

Germany shocked Argentina in the first quarterfinal. A goal up and comfortable, Argentine coach Pekerman took off playmaker Riquelme and put on a defender as his replacement. His omission of wonderkind Messi gave the Germans hope and they equalised late on. The match went to penalties and German keeper Lehmann did the rest. Pekerman resigned before being fired the next day; his tactics in the early rounds had been a revelation, but he simply lost his nerve against a German team with suddenly had real momentum. An early goal from Zambrotta gave an emotional Italy the lead over Ukraine, before Toni’s late double secured a 3-0 win. The match fixing scandal in Italy had caused former international Pessotto to attempt suicide before the match. It was fitting that close friend Zambrotta scored, under the circumstances. Tellingly, the last time Italy won the World Cup, it was under a match-fixing scandal, in 1982. Toni breaking his scoring duck was also reminiscent of Paulo Rossi’s resurgence that year. Omens for Italy? England were involved in anbother dire match, drawing 0-0 with Portugal, after Rooney’s frustration led to him being sent off. Needless to say, English nerves were frayed during the shoot out and Portugal coach Scholari had his third consecutive quarterfinal over Sven, who (mercifully) ended his England career with a whimper. Henry’s goal (thanks to some woeful defending) was enough for France to oust Brazil 1-0, in a repeat of the 1998 Final. Again, Zidane was magnificent, whilst Ronaldinho failed to make any sort of impact. This meant an all-European semifinals for the first time since, you guessed it, 1982.

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