This is the last of my world cup postings. When I posted the first, just prior to the start of the tournament, I had expected to do just one more, at the end, and this to reflect on what will have happened. But this is now my sixth post and I have posted at each stage of what has turned out to be an entertaining and enjoyable tournament.
While there have been fouls and shenanigans with players feigning fouls, the matches have been overall played in a good spirit. A few games have been dull but more have been exciting, with some splendid goals and some good goalless draws. In terms of teams progressing, it has been much as predicted by the pundits, although there have been some impressive football played by the underdogs.
It seems an age now since England’s demise and consequently interest nationally has significantly diminished. I have said what I had to say on the matter and focused on watching what I would hope would be the best examples of world football, and in the main I haven’t been disappointed. Brazil has been excellent hosts despite the generally mediocre performance of their national side.
Of the two games left, following my last post, it is difficult to say much that is profound regarding the third place play-off. It is not that football was bad, but it was difficult to get passionate about a game with little meaning. It would have been nice if the Brazil team had won, but having been eliminated just before the all-important final, it would have still been a poor consolation. Holland won convincingly, 3-0 and, given what they had given to this tournament, we should not begrudge them their victory.
So we come to final. I write as I watch. While Holland might feel hard done by, losing by penalties to Argentina in the semi-finals, I feel we have the two best teams playing in the final. Prior to the game, I would put Germany as slight favourites and given they have been overall the most impressive team throughout the tournament, it would have been appropriate if they had won. But I am supporting Argentina, although I can’t say why. I just hoped it would be a good game, with the best team winning.
Come the end of normal time, the teams were deadlocked and no goals had been scored. But from a neutral perspective the teams did not disappoint and the football played was of a high standard by two well matched teams. Both sides had chances to score, but unsuccessfully. But at this stage a draw was a fair reflection of the play and it remained difficult to predict who would prevail.
My hope in extra time is that it would be settled one way or another before the end, as penalties can never be a satisfactory ending to the most important game played in a four year period. At the end of the first period of extra time, the game continues to be gripping, with both sides having chances. If anything Argentina has an edge but I dare not tempt providence! And so it is, Germany scores with little over 5 minutes left, and it is a good goal. But credit where credit is due and take nothing away from the Germans. Argentina has played good football but Germany is the worthy winner of the 2014 World Cup, for they have been the best team in the competition and one that gelled as a team and were strong in areas. Being so young, one imagines they will be the team to beat for some time!
So thank you Brazil for hosting a great tournament and to the teams that have contributed so well. It is unlikely now I will have the same intensity of interest in the top-flight football that will follow (the Premiership tends to depress me), until the next World Cup, assuming I am still around. Football is a beautiful game, and while I have never been that good as a player, it has given me a lot of pleasure. My interest will still be more aimed at grassroots level and encouraging youngsters to do their best and play in the right spirit.