Welcome to the penultimate update of the CM9798 World Cup. I’m welling up as I write this, thinking of all the great memories we’ve made over the past three weeks. On the plus side, you only have to put up with two matches in each of the remaining updates. Small mercies.
Semi-finals baby! (I promise I won’t do that again).
France vs Holland
It is one of life’s mysteries that Holland have never won a World Cup. They have a style of football named after them for goodness sake, that has to be worth something. In the other corner is France, the host nation, who have also never won the World Cup (ignore the real 98 tournament please). Only one of these great nations can advance to the final to have the chance to break that duck, but who? WHO?
@90sfootball (Paddy) has shuffled his pack. He can afford to that with the talent he has at his disposal. With that, Trezeguet, Henry and Diomede all come into the side and at this stage of the tournament they’re fresh, which is perhaps more disconcerting. They have home advantage, too.
Ash Rose (Alive & Kicking) has stuck with his favoured 4-4-2 that has done so well for him. Michael Reiziger is banned and without another recognised right back, veteran Ronald Koeman is in at right back. Edgar Davids makes his first start of the tournament replacing the injured Zenden (who himself had replaced the injured Cocu) and Jaap Stam is back from suspension.
Hey look it’s on video! Or my comments are below.
It’s a cagey start where the highlight is Trezeguet getting booked in the first minute, which means he’ll miss the final if France get there. Bergkamp then looked like like he had given Holland the lead only to be denied by a fabulous Barthez save, but sadly that’s as good as it got for Holland. Zidane played Trezeguet through and he finished sublimely past Van der Sar to give France the lead on 28 minutes. Trezeguet then turned provider as he set up future Liverpool flop Bernard Diomede for 2-0, before Van Der Sar spilled a routine Henry effort to allow Christian Karembeu to make it 3-0. Oh my.
None of this makes good reading for Holland. Except maybe Clarence Seedorf.
Can Holland salvage anything from this? They need a massive improvement. Paddy withdraws Zidane on the hour mark, clearly feeling the job is done. Holland throw on Hasselbaink to try and find a way back but with the Dutch pushing on, Trezeguet gets in to make it 4-0 and Henry rounds it off with the 5th and final goal. 5-0. The hosts are partying!
The fact the stats are only 51% and 49% is a little misleading.
Bernard Diomede getting man of the match in a World Cup semi final? This is what Liverpool thought they were getting.
Final score then and the only question that remains is not “why was this played at Stade Veledrome? but rather who will join them in the final?
Italy vs Belgium
It’s been 4 years since The Divine Ponytail stepped up and blasted his penalty over the bar. Roberto Baggio has been preparing to right this wrong ever since (probably) and now he stands one game away from doing just that. Belgium meanwhile have been the surprise package of the tournament, cast in the role of Croatia from the real life tournament they find themselves on the cusp of a World Cup final. Gilles De Bilde is joint top of the golden boot chart having netted 7 times and he will hold the key to success if Belgium are to better their 4th placed finish from 1986. I mean even if they lose they could still do that. Sigh. We nearly got through a whole introduction in a serious manner there.
@FPLhints aka the Tinkerman can welcome back Christian Panucci but with Tacchinardi’s tournament over, there’s a gap to fill in defensive midfield. Paolo Maldini has been given the nod in that role, vacating his defensive position but he’s more than capable. He could play anywhere probably. He even played tennis last year, what a lad.
Belgium are managed by Adam Turner, the real hero who showed me how to make this whole thing happen. He’s worked wonders with Belgium and, much like he did against Germany, has opted to change the shape to nullify the Italian threat. It might work.
Video! You know the rest
Belgium might have tried to park the bus but it’s more of an open top bus in the early stages, with Italy finding gaps with relative ease. Eventually, the pressure tells and Italy take the lead through Roberto Baggio, who moves a step closer to putting right the wrongs of 1994. Belgium, like a boxer on the ropes, are hanging in for the bell. They reach 45 minutes but before the referee can blow, Ravanelli makes it 2-0. His 6th of the tournament is very probably a critical blow for Belgian hopes.
A bit one sided. We’ve seen nothing from Belgium in an attacking sense, so Adam changes things up. Grun’s off, Mpenza is on. It’s 4-4-2 diamond. It’s serious business.
It makes no difference. A dull second half sees Belgium manage a singular off target shot, whilst Italy hit the target a further three times but can’t increase their lead. It’s a shame for Belgium, they’ve won a lot of fans in this tournament. But the 1998 final will be a prequel of the 2006 final. Yes, that’s a thing.
Bodart has had a wonderful tournament but even his brilliance here couldn’t save Belgium. They will have a chance to play for 3rd place – and remember, the rule this year is that the contestants of the 3rd/4th place match must co-host Euro 2000. How handy.
The stage is set…
That’s Wednesday 13th June to you and I. That’s also when the 3rd/4th place match will be. Making memories. See you there!
The race for the golden boot is almost run:
De Bilde – 7
Ronaldo – 7
Ravanelli – 6
Rozental – 5
Shearer – 5
Bergkamp – 5