As another long wait of four years commences, I look back to the last of a thrilling series of soccer that was. A month of festivities, the 20th FIFA World Cup, was brought about by Pitbull and Shakira and marked by Van Persie’s shots and Suarez’s bites. 64 matches with 32 teams played in the tropical haven of Brazil and out emerged two teams, to play for the finals on May the 13th (or rather, May the 14th , here in India).
This world cup was one of the most interesting editions of the competition with the defending champions, Spain, exiting in the first round and being shortly followed by England, Italy and later, France. Also some of the underdogs crafted the game to their advantage and teams such as Costa Rica, Columbia, Mexico, found themselves in the Super-Eights.
On an individual scale too, this world cup has proved an arena for fresh talent and experience alike. Records have been broken as rapidly as they were created. James Rodriguez has scored 6 goals, in spite of being eliminated from the quarter finals. Ronaldo Luis was bested by Miroslav Klose after he scored his 16th goal in the World Cup. While some stars led their teams upfront, scoring and defending, others concentrated on team work, sharing the field.
Thus, when the bells tolled for the finals, it was indeed a wake-up call (rather a do-not-sleep call) for the viewers to embrace the beautiful game, Jogo Bonito, as they call it, before it again exiled itself but to arrive in Russia, four years later. After a humiliating defeat of the hosts and a Dutch let-down in the semifinals, Rio prepared for battle- as warriors Germany and Argentina flew in.
Unlike most schools in the city, mine had chosen to remain open, despite a lot of unofficial requests. But this (and the test that I had) was not reason enough to dampen my world cup agenda. So there I lay in my couch, not a wink of sleep, a can in my hand, and my eyes glued to the widescreen TV, about half an hour past midnight, Monday.
The kickoff was appropriately timed and the 20 players ran about the ground, making every bit of effort to gain control but somehow the ball balanced its time between the Whites and Blues. After a few minutes of smooth dribbling, finally the Argentine skipper was approaching the post. No luck there. 20 minutes into the game…out of the blue (Oh! The irony), Kroos appeared and jumped up in the centre of midfield and gave a header back to his own goal… right into the path of Higuain. He had a clear run through on goal and just the keeper to beat. But it seemed Argentina was definitely not having a easy way across. Higuain shot the ball way wide of the post, not exactly a close miss. The commentators could be heard, “Today, should Argentina lose by a goal…. Higuain….” The other skipper, Lahm, was advancing steadily now and it looked as if Germans were finally in the field. Passes later, just as the Brazuca neared the post, offside, was the call. But it was another offside in the 29th minute that stole the show. Higuain again. Driving the ball in, celebrations were in order. But wait…there’s the linesman with flag raised. Offside. A wonderful decision, no doubt, but it did dampen the Argentine hopes.
Krammer going out injured and a few cards and warnings were the only interesting sights till Messi approached the right flank and went ahead to the other half. Thankfully, Germany had enough men to contain him. The next couple of minutes saw a steady contest between Müller and Messi, a relief now to the bored Indian eye. The first half came to an end with two corners for Germany, safely encountered.
Adrenaline had by now got better of sleep, and the second half was eagerly awaited. Of course, by now there were new cans in my hand and popcorn bowl was refilled. The rest of it was messed up mixture of painful waiting and keep-calm mood.
The second half started with Aguero coming in. Somehow, it edged in my mind that there’s more to this game. Next up was the twin attack by Messi and Higuain on German defenses. Wide haphazard shots flew and it was a quite a while before Germany was back on its feet.
And to mention the second half without this view of the Redeemer would be unthinkable. The game moved slowly… apart from Neuer climbing Higuain, the rest was a dull affair.
The 86th minute was time for Miroslav Klose to bid a final goodbye to the world cup that had given him his 16th goal. He came out amidst a rousing cheer of German fans.
Inevitably the game gave away to extra time…..
Odd as it may seem even the extra time seemed to have a boring undercurrent to it. Or at least the first half of the extra time was. Just when everyone (includes me, yes) was wishing penalties would commence, Schweinsteiger was fouled thrice, by Biglia, Mascherano and finally Aguero, who hit him giving him his scar, which would be later mentioned by Zaman Quashef,
“He’ll be telling his grandchildren the story of that scar.” And then came the fateful assist in the 113th minute. Schurrle passes on to Gotze who assumes control of the ball nicely, before letting it slide past Romero. Germany had scored. One step closer to history, Germany was.
Argentina could not get back to it, save for the last minute, where Messi made a desperate last attempt but that was all it was. An Attempt.
So for the first time in the history, a European country, Germany, won the World Cup on the South American soil. As my slow watch struck 3, thus ended the 20th FIFA World Cup, Brazil with Germany the new Champions….