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Spain v France: Subplots Abound
The New York Times, June 27th, 2006 3:21PM

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Not that World Cup games need any added drama, but subplots always tend to spice things up. To the chagrin of the hapless Aussies, Italy and Francesco Totti in particular were able to exact their revenge on Guus Hiddink yesterday after Totti converted a 94th-minute penalty after a possible dive in the box from Italian left back Fabio Grosso. Four years ago against Hiddink's South Korea, Totti was wrongfully sent off in overtime for allegedly diving in the area. Replays suggested that it could have been a penalty. So some might say Totti and Italy's fortune is poetic justice. What, then, of Spain and France, which for many is the most mouthwatering of the second -ound games? This one is full of sub plots. In October 2004, Spain coach Luis Aragones was caught on film spouting racist remarks about Thierry Henry, France's star striker. The result was a maelstrom of controversy in the European press; Aragones was fined, but he kept his job. He did not apologize. Other subplots: Raul, Spain's star striker, missed a last-minute penalty against France that would have brought the thrilling Euro 2000 quarterfinal into overtime. Many people said afterwards that that was one of the best matches they ever saw. The last, of course, is Zinedine Zidane. Every match could be his last, as the legend will retire from the game altogether after this World Cup. Let's hope the sorcerer, who's been flat so far, has a bit more magic to show us before capping his extraordinary career.

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