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Quarterfinals Serve Potential Classics
The Mail & Guardian, June 29th, 2006 3:48PM

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But others will tell you the quarterfinalists "ooze class." Whereas four years ago South Korea, Turkey and Senegal had never advanced so far as the final eight, this year, six of the eight teams have won the World Cup before, with Ukraine the only newcomer to the quarterfinals. FIFA President Sepp Blatter is in raptures (and taking credit) now that the traditional powers are back. "This time we're seeing quality play from players who came here fresh. They're in good shape," he said, partly because Blatter decreed that Europe's domestic leagues end their seasons by May 15. The pick of the bunch is tomorrow's opener between Argentina and Germany, arguably the most attractive sides at the finals so far. Juergen Klinsmann's German team had been all but written off at home and abroad prior to the June 9 opening, but it's rebounded in stunning fashion since, winning each of its four matches while riding a wave of patriotic emotion long absent in Germany. Its opponents have won three and drawn one, after having played much tougher opposition. The second game tomorrow pits Italy against Ukraine. Off the field, there's been a dark cloud hanging over the Italians all tournament long. There's the Serie A scandal involving four clubs that employ many players on the national team. Then there's the more recent shock that former Juventus player Gianluca Pessotto attempted to commit suicide. As Gianluigi Buffon, Italy's keeper said: "I'm finding it difficult at the moment, almost impossible, to talk about soccer or matches and all the emotions that you're supposed to feel at a World Cup."

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