It's not the same thing. When you have just one repository, a lot of things are simpler, like e.g. tagging, browsing history etc. When you have multiple repositories, you have to repeat each operation for each of them. Or, imagine e.g. you had your repository for some time, and then suddenly you need to grant read/write access to just a part of it to someone. With svn, this is simple. With git, well, impossible.
> setting up a SVN repo to do the path-based stuff isn't exactly child's play either
I disagree. Actually, it is.
p.s. I don't understand the need to defend GIT. Yes, it's awesome, and no, it's not universal. Why not just accept that?