Cardinals aim for fairytale finish
Superbowl XLIII sees the underdog Cardinals battle the ruthless Steelers.
Last Modified: 02 Feb 2009 05:33 GMT

Larry Fitzgerald has a chance to shine on the biggest stage [EPA]
This year's Super Bowl seems as important to the American nation's mood as it does to decide their best NFL team of the season.

The Super Bowl has become a quasi- national holiday as Americans gather to enjoy and celebrate the showpiece of their largely unique sport, however this year it is held against a backdrop of economic woe which has depressed this usually self assured nation.

Where the inauguration of President Barack Obama and his uplifting rhetoric was used to give the nation hope, many see this Super Bowl as providing a temporary relief for so many who are facing challenging times in their own reality.

Like the inauguration, it is also hoped that the match will also help unite a nation whose self confidence seems to have taken a beating in recent months if not years.

Watching the buildup you can't help but think of the phrase the Romans liked to use about bread and circuses.

The Steelers James Harrison is a daunting prospect [EPA]
Nation healing if not building

Parallels have already been drawn to the 1991 Super Bowl.

In 1991, the country stood on the brink of the first Gulf War and the memorable performance of the national anthem by Whitney Houston was seen to galvanise the nation.

While it is unlikely that this year's anthem sung by Jennifer Hudson will be able to break the shackles of an economic crisis and a war on two fronts, Americans will hope their pride receives another timely lift.

In recognition to the on-going war in Iraq which remains a huge drain on the public purse and the key question for President Obama’s foreign policy, the NFL have selected General David H. Petraeus to toss the coin in a ceremony prior to the match.

The match itself sees the tough tackling, well drilled defensive unit of the Steelers looking to end the fairytale run of the Arizona Cardinals.

The history of the two sides differs widely, the Steelers are chasing a record six title while the Cardinals are looking for their first title since moving to Arizona.

The franchise only other title came back in 1947 when they were based in Chicago.

Fitzgerald firing

The Cardinals charge to the finals has come on the back of some dazzling offensive plays by revitalised quarterback Kurt Warner and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.

In the first three rounds of the playoffs Fitzgerald came up with the big plays that gave this much maligned club a chance at glory.

On successive weekends in January against the Atlanta Falcons, Carolina Panthers and Philadelphia Eagles Fitzgerald racked up 23 receptions, 419 yards and five touchdowns.

The 25 year old has become known as a player who can be expected to come up with the attacking plays, but for the well drilled Steelers their goal will be to stop him making the big plays.

And it isn't like the Steelers defence doesn't have the talent to do just that.

Explosive safety Troy Polamalu and his colleague Ryan Clark are likely to be both given the job of shutting down Fitzgerald, while the imposing duo of LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison will be doing their best to shut down Warner.

However, focus only on Fitzgerald and the Cardinals do have two other 1,000 yard receivers in Anquan Boldin and Steve Breaston.

But that still won't give the confident Steelers fans any reason to lose sleep.

The Steelers defence is unrelentless [EPA]
Tampa becomes a Steel city

The city of Tampa literally seems to have been swamped by fans of the Steelers all wearing the trademark black jerseys and yellow towels.

Those fans have also been boosted by the support of their President who claimed that both he and vice president Joe Biden would be cheering on the Steelers on Sunday.

The new President claimed it was to do with a long term affection for the Steelers rather than the fact that his Republican rival John McCain hailed from Arizona.

But the Steelers faith is also down to their teams dominating form.

The side had the best defence in the NFL and have had good success against sides like the Cardinals all season long.

Make no mistake, should the Cardinals upset the Steelers they will rank along the 1969 New York Jets, the 2001 New England Patriots and the 2007 New York Giants as history's unlikeliest Super Bowl winners.

But maybe America needs that sort of fairytale now more than ever.

Al Jazeera
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