Just when I was about to lose faith in the world cup and start wondering whether the greatest show on earth is really so, my faith is restored by a side which had forgotten to win, forgotten to score and as termed by mosy represented an "old age" home. Spain vs France was all what we want in a world cup match and was without doubt the best match of round 2. After four successive matches ending with 1-0, 1-0, 1-0 and a forgettable 0-0, Monday provided the much needed boost.
It started off with Ronaldo's record breaking 15th goal which was a typical Brazil-special and continued with countless Ghana attacks, a busy day for Dida, smart moves from Brazil, controversial goals, no off-side call when there should have been and hold on.... Just ONE red card.
If Brazil and Ghana set the tempo for the day, Spain and France raised it to the highest levels. This was undoubtedly billed as the match of round 2 along with the Portugal-Holland match but unlike the latter this was a proper hard-fought football match (and not a boxing match or a card game). As the game kicked off, it was youth Vs experiece at its best. The young Spanish legs were fast, held possession for most of the time, attacked non-stop but never looked like finding the back of the net. The French used all the experience, played to their strength and tactically out-smarted their opponents. The Ribery-equalizer was ample proof of that. At 1-1 it was absolutely even-stevens in teh 2nd half but only one side looked likely to score. With all their talent and pace, the inexperinced Spanish could not match up to their experienced rivals. The battle-hardened French could find just that extra bit in a big match like this. As for the Spanish, their inability to lift their game in a big match once again showed and the under-achiever tag remains for another 2 years till Euro2008.
Now, with the French resurgence, we have a QF line-up which has loads of history attached. Brazil Vs France - Could you ask for anything better? Two legends, being great pals at Real Madrid, facing off against each other for one last time. One trying to leave on a high and the other trying to bury that ghost of the 1998 final forever. The stage is again set, actors are the same, just that 8 years have passed by.
And, if there is any team in the world Brazil in jinxed with, its none other than France. In the last 20 years France has managed to knock Brazil out of the world cup twice (1986 - refer to my previous artciel and 1998). I dont think any team has managed to do that ever.
As for the other QF, right now Germany Vs Argentina is the match to watch - undoubtedly two most impresive teams of the competition. Fond memories of that great 1986 final come back again and again.
And lastly, England Vs Portugal brings Skolari and Eriksson against each other for the third time in a row in a Quarter Final - Skolari leading 2-0.
Last time (and only) time England met Portugal in a World Cup KO phase, was when they won the tournament way back in 1966 - with a brace from Bobby Charlton against the brilliance of Eusebio.
So hold your breath. History will have no significance as far as the outcome of these matches is concerned but it will surely make it more special especially with old scores to settle.