Tuesday, 22 July 2014

World Cup legacy: Germany conquer at Brasil 2014

by Alastair Pusinelli.

The month long football fiesta came to a close with Germany the much deserved winners over a below par Argentina side. Mario Gotze's extra time volley was a fitting end to a memorable tournament and gave the Germans their fourth World Cup, their first as a reunified Germany (West Germany won the trophy three times between 1954 and 1990).

Den Maanschaft went into the Final as hot favourites despite no European side ever lifting the trophy in the Americas. But when you hit seven past the hosts and pre-tournament favourites Brazil, people take notice. What's more, Argentina had limped their way to the Final, having not scored in over three hours of football, relying on penalties to defeat a resilient Dutch side.

But maybe the likes of Higuain, di Maria, Aguero and four-time player of the year Lionel Messi were waiting for the biggest stage of them all to make their mark. The first chance of the match fell to Gonzalo Higuain; a misplaced headed from Christoph Kramer handed the Argentinean striker a one-on-one with Manuel Neuer, but he snatched at the shot and scuffed the ball wide.

This was a huge wake-up call for the Germans, and they began to settle when Andre Schurrle came on for Kramer who was struggling afer a blow to the head. This moved Toni Kroos into a holding midfielder role, allowing him to dictate play but still break forward into goal-scoring positions.

The men in white then went close when Kroos' corner was headed onto the post by Benedikt Howedes, who really should have made the net bulge. Alejandro Sabella's Argentina looked the stronger after the break, with captain Messi through on goal but somehow putting the ball inches wide.

The Germans regained control but none of their efforts on goal tested goalkeeper Sergio Romero, sending the Final into extra-time.The tie looked destined for the dreaded penalty shootout but both teams had the chance to reach immortality. Argentinean left back Marcos Rojo sent a superb ball over the German defence straight to the feet of the rat-tailed Rodrigo Palacio. But the Inter Milan man couldn't convert, a miss that would prove costly.

With seven minutes remaining, Andre Schurrle broke down the left wing and clipped the ball towards the front post. Substitute Mario Gotze took the ball on his chest and knocked it past a despondent Romero in the Argentine goal. A strike worthy of winning any final.

La Albiceleste could not create that chance to force penalties to hand Germany their first World Cup in 24 years.

I'd like to thank Brazil for hosting a simply spectacular tournament, despite all the concerns about the infrastructure and the Brazillian economy. With the next two tournaments in Russia and Qatar, it is unlikely we will witness the scenes of celebration like those in Brazil, with the tournament delivered by a country that breathes football.

For England, it was another tournament to forget, but there remains a hope that these new young Lions will produce something special in years to come. With England being knocked out early,  it gave us fans the opportunity to appreciate what the other nations had to offer.

Costa Rica showed great tenacity, proving the whole is greater than the individual,  topping a group where they were supposedly the whipping boys and reaching the quarter finals for the first time.

Colombia played with a smile on their face, which passed on to whoever saw them play. Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez deserves a mention after that breathtaking goal against Uruguay, and was somehow not awarded the Golden Ball for best player, with the panel going for someone more their cup of tea - Lionel Messi.

Germany were undoubtedly the best side, but they didn't start playing anywhere near their best fooball until the Semis. Therefore I issue a warning ahead of Russia 2018. Even if you are reigning World Champions, fail to deliver from game one and you could head home early. Spain lifting the trophy in Johannesburg seems a long, long time ago.

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