While watching the French flounder against Romania tonight, I was thinking that perhaps there are parallels to be drawn between football and wine:
France: Too much daydreaming about a glorious past (ah, that 1998 World Cup), even as they have today what is perhaps the finest collection of youthful talent of any nation in Europe. Should be great, yet hampered by stodgy and inflexible management, slow to innovate and too reliant on the old guard (although now, finally, the new generation is being acknowledged). Unable to escape the nagging feeling that performance isn’t fulfilling potential, with reputation sometimes exceeding actual quality (Anelka). If things don’t improve, they’re in danger of falling behind the rest of the world.
Italy: Obviously full of quality, with a tremendous heritage and pedigree, yet still erratic. Despite being loaded with talent, their reputation for fakery and simulation turns out to be well-founded in reality. Is anyone surprised when Brunello gets yellow-carded for diving? At some positions they’re among the best in the world (Pirlo, Gattuso, Buffon; Barbaresco, Barolo, Amarone), while elsewhere even vaunted names sometimes under-perform (Gilardino, Zambrotta; Chianti, Vino Nobile di Montepulciano). Ultimately, the only reason they won the 2006 World Cup was because the star bottle of France’s cellar (Zidane) was corked that day. (Go ahead, flame me.)
Germany: Dependable, consistent, still underrated. Once acknowledged the greatest in the world: even though they’re not very fashionable now, they’re capable of reaching the summit again. True, some key players could still improve (Gomez, who wears the #9 shirt, needs some target practice), but the superstars can generally be relied upon (Podolski, Ballack), and even less-heralded names are capable of stepping up and demonstrating great quality (Lahm, Fritz). Even when they’re one-dimensional, they’re still good (Klose). Strengths include things like structure, balance and precision. They’re most successful when they concentrate on what they do best, rather than attempting to appeal to international taste.
Spain: Such plentiful and diverse talent, spearheaded by superstars of the new generation (Fabregas, Torres). Very strong domestically, but constantly looking for more success on the world stage. The country’s top
Portugal: Full of promise and potential, but still inconsistent in delivery when it comes to putting the ball in the net. (The top goalscorers in Portugal’s domestic league are all foreign players.) I’d like to see more quality of character (Deco, Pepe, Miguel) and less new oak and international flash (Cristiano Ronaldo).
Austria: Well, thank goodness they make world-class wines....