According to the media, last night's unfortunate events in Gelsenkirchen seems to have overshadowed every other significant event that occurred on the face of the Earth yesterday. This is sad, because something truly significant happened not a million miles away from the scene of that disaster. This massive event has been buried in a dark corner of every online media outlet all day, and considering it only takes two words to describe this event, it's a shame it wasn't given more prominence. The two words to describe what happened? "Zinedine Zidane" is what happened.
Zidane's performance last night against Brazil was easily the most outstanding individual performance seen at this World Cup, and I'd be astonished if we'll see better in the remaining four games. It's probably not a coincidence that in the same game, the French also put in the best team performance seen so far, easily surpassing the Argentinean's display during their 6–0 victory against Serbia & Montenegro. Well, actually, it definitely wasn't a coincidence…Zidane was central to every move France made all night, and it's a commonly–held opinion that France would not have beaten an unusually uninventive Brazilian side without him. Zidane's vision as a playmaker was fantastic, and yet it was surpassed by his passing, strength, and especially footwork. I think all night, at a conservative estimate, he lost control of the ball about three times…three times in ninety minutes! Against Brazil!
'Zizou' was excellently supported by his teammates as well. I think it's safe to say that every single one of them, with perhaps the exception of Barthez, were truly in the zone. Thierry Henry finally showed some of the guile that he is famed for at club level, Patrick Viera kept appearing at all the right moments in all the right places, and Franck Ribery continued to demonstrate why he is one of the great new talents to emerge from the tournament. I think Ribery is one of the most underrated players we've seen over the past month, and he's going to be an important element of the French team in the post–Zidane era. His main fault is the fact that he's so small, and consequently isn't strong enough to barge his way past the opposition, which is vital for a winger.
I know Dida is massive, but look….Ribery is so small that if he ducked his head, he could just run under his legs. However, he does make up for his lack of strength with a decent turn of speed, and a bit of cunning. I laughed when I saw him skin Lucio and zip along the goal line, it was a joy to watch. He's one to keep an eye on, and I reckon he'd do quite well in the Premiership, despite his physical shortcomings.
Unfortunately, the pleasure of watching a team play an almost perfect game of football was offset by the loss of Brazil from the tournament. This has been one of the weakest, least entertaining Brazilian teams I can remember seeing for quite a while. Yet they still had the players to win the tournament, and continued to pull off moves that made your jaw drop. Man for man, they were one of the strongest teams left in the tournament, but for whatever reason, they just didn't hook it up on the night.
I'd rather Brazil were in the semis than Italy or Portugal. However, France have the potential of providing some of the entertainment that Brazil, had they fulfilled their potential, could have given us. Zidane played in a manner that any of the Brazilians, by their own admission, would have been proud of. And Ribery could have replaced Ronaldinho in the Brazilian side without any trouble at all.
Ribery is certainly no replacement for 'Zizou', though, and it is sad that the end of Zidane's football career will come when France's run in this World Cup comes to an end. I was sad for Zidane when he was suspended for the final group match. France were far from certain to go through…and had they failed to scrape through, then it would have been a harsh footballing injustice for Zidane's farewell to end in such an unremarkable fashion. I suspect that Zidane was well aware of this, and consequently, he's played every match since France got through like he will never have the chance to play the game again. And what a spectacle that has been to watch. Zizou, you will be missed, and I hope your career ends on the ultimate high that it deserves.