Another milestone, another breather and we now know the finalists of the 2014 Football World Cup. Like many of the football pundits, while I predicted correctly who the semi-finalists would be, I got it wrong entirely when it came to predicting who will make it through to the final, although it was always going to be a difficult call. So here are my takes on the two games that have just taken place:
Brazil versus Germany: the shock, by a long way, of the tournament so far! Even in the first ten minutes of what looked like it would be a closely fought, but also wide open and exciting game, by no sense of the imagination could anyone have predicted that Germany would then score five goals in the next twenty, although it became increasingly apparent that the shell shocked Brazilians were capitulating. Who would have thought that Germany would trounce Brazil, widely tipped as the tournament favourites, by such an overwhelming margin? While Brazil were inept, disorganized and were without ideas, it should not take away credit from the Germans, who were ruthless, clinical, outstanding in all aspects of the game and showed fantastic coordination, skill and team work, who deserved their wide margin of victory. For the first time in the tournament, I saw a something approaching football team greatness and without any obvious flaws, which despite how well the four semi-finalists had played up to then, was hitherto not evident.
Holland versus Argentina: what a contrast to the previous semi-final! It was evident that both teams were nervous and wanted to keep it (the play) tight and, consequently, there was little by way of goal mouth incident. That is not to say that the game was dull. Both teams were well coordinated and played a solid, even if not too exciting brand, of football. I sense the game was a bit cat and mousy and that went on right through to the extra time, with each side looking to find ways to penetrate the defenses of the opposition, who then found ways to withstand and counter (something that matches my own philosophy of life). While I have no problem with such an approach, from a spectator point of view it may have been nice if the teams had thrown caution to the wind and had gone for all out attack. By the end of extra time, I would have to say there was little I could see that would separate the two teams as far as deserving to win and that a draw was the right result. But then came the dreaded penalty shoot out, and the rest is history, with Argentina coming out on top, thus booking their place to face Germany in Sunday’s final.
So we are now two games away from the end. The first, the third and fourth game play off, might well be regarded as a non-entity with the only thing being played for is pride. I hope and believe Holland will beat Brazil (based on what it has contributed to the tournament overall) but I also hope Brazil recover soon from their humiliation and become the great side they once were. In the other game, I expect Germany to overcome Argentina in the final and become the first European side to win the World Cup in South America. While both sides have come a long way during the course of the competition, knitting together as teams, and both sides play a decent brand of football in all areas of the game, in terms of overall footballing excellence, Germany is in my view the better side.
Ask me who I want to win and the answer has to be Argentina. While Argentina will unlikely dispel entirely the longstanding perception they, like many of the Latin countries, play dirty, I have felt sportsmanship wise they have been as good as any of the other sides and images like them consoling and acknowledging their opposition and the goalie thanking his former, now the present Dutch, manger, I find rather endearing. And while Germany had played overall fairly, the image of their players remonstrating with the referee when an opponent went down all too easily in the penalty box, when they had previously done something similar, I find rather irksome. So I say, come on Argentina, but also may the best team win, and may this compettion live up to its billing that along with the Olympics it is the greatest spectacle on earth!