Sunday, World Cup final 2014
It sort of came and went. No goals in normal time. Argentina were at least game, making runs, attacks, Messi got a few dribbles in, and finally made it into the penalty box. Higuain probably should have done a lot better with his free chance in on the goal. I guess he was as surprised as the rest of us to be given the chance, but I guess to be a world class (world cup) winner, you have to take those rare chances. You may not get another one.
The longer it went with no goals, the more it stayed open. I was cheering for Argentina. Biglia, Messi, Mascherano they were playing well. Their defense had the Germans in hand too, they hadn’t let a goal in during the whole knock out rounds. Extra time was kinda dull, and it was now getting dark outside. Then, Goetze, with minutes left till penalties, got in there, chested it down, and scored! It turned out to be the winner. Argentina had had their chances, failed to take them, it was Germany.
They were never fabulous, but they did destroy Brazil. France failed to show up against them. Ghana had a good crack. They had struggled against Algeria, looking pretty average. But they had a good squad, strength in depth, not depending on any one player. Klose for example nothing too amazing, but overall they had a lot of good attacking midfielders Mueller was good when he wasn’t dramatically falling over. As some people said too, Argentina would have been annoying if they had won. So maybe the Germans were a least bad option, better than if Brazil, with their unbeautiful game had won it.
We were done. The WC over for another 4 years. I loved it, but good to be done too. The first two rounds were, as they usually are, the best. After that it tends to deteriorate in cautious, defensive football. The first round, I’ve come to realise, is my favourite, because in any one particular game, any dog can have it’s day. Iran Argentina was a great day. Iran were almost good for the win, and for 90 minutes they had Argentina scared. Ultimately when Messi showed why he is a worthy multiple winner of the world player of the year, it wasn’t the worst result. Iran could feel really proud of themselves, and yet, ultimately Argentina lived to fight another day. Similarly the Ghana Germany game was fantastic. At the end the Ghanian coach was clearly visibly upset, and rightly so, as he knew they had missed an opportunity to have won the game. These were the great games, when teams went for it, without the safety net of trying to hold on, playing for penalties.
As the years have gone by I’ve come to realise the pool play of the first round is the time to enjoy and revel in the football. Every match is important, but at the same time you can always lose one of your first two games and still be, mathematically at least, in with a chance to qualify in your third game. This means there is something riding on the result, for at least one of the teams. This keeps it interesting and allows for the Togos, El Salvadors and New Zealand’s to achieve those entertaining results. This bit I love, and being cursed to support a team of ever diminishing expectations, it does mean you can enjoy the World Cup even though your own team hasn’t got a hope of winning it.
I used to believe…
In ’78, Scotland, with their two Archie Gemmil goals. Pushing for the 4th on the night, that would have put them through. The dream was alive and it was a fantastic game, until the Dutch beat Rough and grimly held on for the 3 – 2 defeat that was good enough.
In ’88 (yes it was Euros), Ireland were going through to the semi finals, oh my god could it be possible, until, the Dutch, again, got the late winner.
In 90, England, all the way to the semis, and with goals and chances. ’02 too, 1 nil up in the quarters.
All dust now as we know, and then in ’06 & ’10, England were horrible to watch. Germany had their nadir 10 years ago, and have charged back making 6 consecutive semi finals of Euros and World Cups. I think we can only dream of these sort of performances.
I love the World Cup, the stories, the katydid on James Rodriguez’s shoulder before, during and after his successful penalty. These are the best bits. By the time we get to the quarter finals and beyond it is invariably the heavy weights and it is a more cautious type of football. The prize is too close and the stakes for losing too high. I loved Costa Rica, was delighted at their progress, but playing for penalties against the Dutch didn’t really seem to be the point of it. By the time we reached the Dutch – Argentina semi final and another long nil nil episode I was glad we were almost done. Yes there were goals in the other semi final, but that was really all about a six minute aberration between the 23rd & 29th minutes.
I love the World Cup, and I’m also glad it is not every year (maybe every two or three years perhaps). When it’s on, even with the sun shining outside, you must find a screen to watch. Even if it turns out to be another 120 minutes with (virtually) no goals, you’ve got to see it unfolding in real time. Highlights won’t do it. It is your civic duty to commune with the near 1 billion people around the world doing exactly the same thing as me, at the same time! How cool is that.
This then gives you a currency worth it’s weight in gold, if nothing else when you meant a random person in the world, there’s always the World Cup to fall back on, Suarez’s hunger, Navajas, Howard, diving Robben, Slimani, van Persie’s awesome header. You have a starting point to break the ice, share the watermelon, and enjoy the festival.