June 29, 2006

book four, no fear

I just sent the first (OK, third, but first for public consumption) draft of my fourth novel, set in Africa and very tentatively titled Absolute Darkness, off to my UK agent and publisher. Sure hope they like it. As always at this stage I have lost all perspective and have no idea whether they will or not.

But enough about work. Let's talk about the important stuff: the World Cup quarterfinals.

Argentina-Germany: This should be a good game - the hosts, who have rampaged over all opposition, against a team so classy and dangerous it leaves Carlos Tevez and Lionel Messi on the bench. The teams have similar records here, having both scored ten goals and conceded four. But don't let that fool you into thinking they're evenly matched. Germany did this against Costa Rica, Poland, Ecuador, and a Swedish team that failed to score against Trinidad and Tobago; Argentina has played Holland, Mexico, and a bloody good Cote d'Ivoire team. Despite Germany's home advantage I'm going with Argentina.

Italy-Ukraine: Both these teams play mindnumbing, stultifyingly defensive games. The difference is that a) the Ukrainians are just happy to be here b) the Italians, even though they might be distracted by the huge scandal currently enveloping their home league, are better at every position except that played by Andriy Shevchenko. Italy will win, but I won't be watching.

England-Portugal: England's glamour squad faces off against the team that knocked them out of Euro 2004, and is depleted by two or three players - including Deco and possibly Cristiano Ronaldo - thanks to that insane bloodbath against Holland. Beckham, Rooney, Gerrard and co. have played so poorly so far they're actually the underdogs despite having a much better team on paper. Still, it says here that England will finally find their stride, or at least just enough of it to squeeze past Portugal. It's not until the next round that they'll go down to their traditional heartbreaking defeat on penalties.

Brazil-France: The South Americans' "magic quartet" against a French side who are suddenly playing like it's 1998. Both sides will have vivid memories of France's victory in that final. Great storylines here - Thierry Henry, two-time World Player of the Year runner-up, seeking revenge for this year's Champions League final against two-time World Player of the Year Ronaldinho; Ronaldo, a three-time World Player of the Year, trying to exorcise the memory of that 1998 final; Zinedine Zidane, another two-time World Player of the Year, trying to extend his career just one more week (he will be retiring after this World Cup, meaning this will be his last game ever if France loses); mighty Patrick Vieira attempting to impose his midfield will on the dazzling Kaka. In the end, I think Brazil will have their revenge; but if you watch only one quarterfinal, make it this one.

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