Saturday, July 08, 2006

In praise of consolation games

Many do not like the traditional 3rd place game at the World Cups. One of the very few sports that does such a consolation prize. But futbol is somewhat different as its fans never seem to have enough. Today Portugal Germany game was no exception as from the bleachers adoring German fans forgave their team loss against Italy and came back for a last love feast.

In many ways today's game gave or renewed the reasons to hold such an activity.

1) It allowed the hosts to have a worthy consolation prize. Germany has given what is arguably the best World Cup held at least on logistics. Impressive "stadions", clockwork schedule, perfect and well behaved crowds; great hospitality (that I rely on reports); amazing grass; etc... They footed the bill, they deserve at least the third place.

2) As usual it was a good game where players and coaches relax some, take a few chances. As a result they tend to have higher scores and today 3 to 1 confirmed it.

3) But more importantly it allowed for two greats of futbol to retire gracefully and with a last hurrah. Oliver Khan returned to his goalposts to show why he has been one of the best goalies ever. Figo benched to allow the team to prepare for the future was called back in the last 15 minutes to set up brilliantly the honor saving goal of Portugal. Thus everyone went home happier, less sad than a few days ago. They were not in the final game but they left as two of the four best teams of the world, proving today that they deserved it. Let's say goodbye to Kahn and Figo with this image of end of game camaraderie which reminds all of us what sports should all be about first: a game to enjoy. We will miss them.

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