Last night, just before Riccardo Montolivo was about to shoot his penalty kick in Italy’s Euro2012 semifinal against England, I told Wife that he was going to miss it.
“You can see the fear in his eyes,” I told her. “He’s never going to score.”
Montolivo missed the goal by a half a meter.
“Told you so,” said the man in the armchair. Me.
Wife said nothing. She didn’t say anything because she knew better than to make foolish predictions. After all, she is a former soccer goalie. She knows that with penalty kicks anything’s possible, and that no matter what I’d like to think, I actually can’t predict who’s going to score and who not. It’s just the fallacy of positive instances. We only remember the times when our predictions do come true.
In 1982, my father and I watched every single World Cup match from Spain and there are two things that I still remember about that tournament. One, that I usually sat on the floor in front of the TV and did some stretching. I’ve never been as flexible as then, but every two years, before every Euro and every World Cup, I see myself sitting in front of the TV, stretching. (I never do, but I should. Maybe in 2014.)
And the other thing is the semifinal between France and Germany, which also ended in a shootout. (I also remember how Harald Schumacher almost killed Battiston).
When it was Maxime Bossis’s turn to shoot, my father looked at him, and got visibly upset. We were sort of cheering for France, because of Michel Platini, the icon of cool, we thought.
“What is he doing?!” Dad said. “He’s never going to score.”
“Look at him, with his socks rolled down, and his shin guards sticking out like that. No, no, you can’t do that. That’s just stupid.”
Bossis out the ball on the dot, and as he took five steps backwards, the camera zoomed on him.
“LOOK AT HIS SOCKS AND SHIN GUARDS,” shouted the man in the rocking chair.
Bossis took five steps forward and sent the ball low towards the left corner, but Schumacher dove and made a save. Bossis stayed down, looked to the midfield towards his teammate.
I looked at Dad.
“Told you so,” he said.
Next up was Horst Hrubesch. He scored, and won the game for Germany. Michel Platini later called it his “most beautiful game.”
Four years later, France played Brazil in the quarterfinal. That, too, was decided in a penalty shootout. I was on the floor, stretching, the score was 3-3, and it was Platini’s turn.
I looked up and saw that he had rolled down his socks. I looked at Dad, he was shaking his head.
His shot went over the crossbar,* and he covered his head with his hands.
I looked at Dad in the rocking chair behind me. He was still shaking his head.