Daily Cup Check: The Final
HASSELHOFF HASELHOFF TURN YOUR HEAD AND COUGH! HASSELHOFF HASSELHOFF TURN YOUR HEAD AND COUGH!
Germany 1-0 Argentina
I suppose there is a desire or a feeling to fit this game into some larger context for this tournament, the winners, the losers, football in general, and what it means for humanity. I guess the reason that feeling exists it partly because this was yet another game in the knockout phase that was basically heroin withdrawal.
In the game itself, the plan for Argentina was clear. Germany had found their success by exploiting the space between defense and midfield with the movement of Muller, Kroos, Ozil, and I suppose Klose when he played (and hey, he actually scored from outside the six-yard box in the semifinal so all bets were off).
So Argentina didn’t leave that space. Mascherano (who was the best player on the pitch and deserved that Golden Ball more than Messi did) and Biglia sat right on top of their defense, and the only times Germany found anything, at least for the first 108 minutes, was by trying to pile through.
The Argentines also thought they could hit on the break if they isolated Howedes and Hummels, and they actually did a few times in the first 20 minutes and for about 90 seconds after halftime. After that, it was basically all backs to the wall.
The one goal came from Germany actually getting something of a counter, being satisfied to go outside, and clever movement from Goetze to get between Zabaleta and and Di Michelles. That was the kind of movement that Ozil and Muller didn’t provide much of until Klose was hauled off and Muller moved into the middle.
But as for the rest, this was a perfect capper to a second half of a tournament that was pretty much awful.
It was disappointing, as the group stage was so full of invention and excitement. Maybe it was two of the more exciting teams, Chile and Colombia, getting the axe early. I don’t know. But name one knockout game that will go down as a classic. Sure, Germany 7 Brazil 1 will be remembered forever, but that’s for as much being a farce from one team than a classic contest.
USA-Belgium had drama, but for 115 minutes that was one team and an opposing goalkeeper. Chile-Brazil was frantic, I guess. All the games involving the Dutch were a snore. It actually took me a couple minutes to remember that Germany played France in the quarters. Argentina-Switzerland had a good ending, but who remembers everything leading up to it?
At least the team that tried, though not always successfully, to play the best football took the trophy. The most talented team did for sure, as Germany was able to bring someone as freakishly talented like Goetze off the bench.
It’s also a lesson for countries that are attempting something of a change in style, like say the USA or England. I was in Portugal in 2004 and saw Germany live in that tournament. They were an abortion. It was Michael Ballack and 10 electro-shock patients. This caused the DFB to re-think everything. It cause the hiring of Loew and Klinsmann, who overhauled everything about the German structure.
Never had Germany had this much flash and skill. It took three cycles to get it right. They were not ready in 2006, but rode the home crowd to extra time in the semifinals. They didn’t quite have it right in in 2010 and ran into perhaps the greatest international side of all time.
But they stuck with the plan, kept tweaking around basically the same players while integrating some brilliant young talent when it came forth, and now they stand on the precipice of quite the run. The ages of all the players who played a major part in this will make you quiver. They’re not going anywhere.
And German football is something of a model. Sure, they have one superclub but it’s not run by a Russian oligarch or an oil tycoon. Their domestic game is healthy, affordable, entertaining, and filled with homegrown talents, Everyone could learn. It’s not just Munich playing eye-catching stuff, but even this stripped down Dortmund and Leverkusen play easy on the eye stuff.
As for Argentina, all eyes will be squarely focused on Leo Messi, but that wouldn’t be fair. With how deep Mascherano and Biglia were deployed, for Messi to drop deep and get the ball off them and then up to Higuain, Di Marian, Perez, Lavezzi, or whoever was part of the front three, you’re asking him to make up about 50 yards.
At Barca, he’s the central striker, and he’s got Busquets and Xavi and Fabregas and Iniesta behind him who play much higher up the pitch. There’s an outlet when he’s surrounded by three defenders.
He didn’t have that with Argentina, and until they find either a bridge between Mascherano and him (and it’s not Fernando Gago) or simply deploy him as the main striker, this is the jam they’re going to keep running into.
They had no Plan B, other than Germany providing them a couple that they couldn’t take advantage of. Their backline and Mascherano were immense, but when your defense and holding midfielder are the ones you notice first – you can see the problems.
But it’s still a World Cup, and we’ll still remember it forever. And it gave some of us who don’t work in the summer meaning in life.
Some of my highlights: Van Persie’s goal (even though I don’t care for him much); Colombia’s celebrations; Dempsey’s goal in 30 seconds because right then it seemed like it was a new US team unsheathed; all that is Luis Suarez; the destruction of Italy by Costa Rica, of all teams; the 2nd half of Ghana-Germany; those 10 minutes when the US led Portgual; and perhaps the biggest one is James Rodriguez’s opener against Uruguay; or the sheer lunacy of those five minutes in Germany-Brazil.
I’m sure I’m leaving stuff out.
Player Of The Tournament
I was tempted to give it to Mascherano, who brought Argentina to the Final after Messi got them out of the group. The most amazing thing about Mascherano is he showed that he is one of the best holding midfielders in the world even though he’s had to play centerback at Barcelona for two years.
The German success is more about a team as a whole, though Kroos and Muller stood out (and Boateng today). But no one lit up this tournament like Rodriguez, and the fact that he reduced Brazil, supposedly the nation of Samba football, to simply kicking him to pieces… there is no higher compliment.
Goal of the Tournament
I’m sorry, you can’t see it enough
So that’s it for me.
I want to thank Scott, and Austin [Editor’s Note: nope. Thank you.], and everyone else here at OTF for letting me infect this blog for awhile. For those of you who read it I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did writing it. If you weren’t aware of my silliness before, I encourage you to check out my dayjob as a Hawks blogger, and my non-day job as a Cubs one.
The links are all below. Oh, and I’ll be returning to AnfieldAsylum.com on a weekly basis starting next week. So my footy work is never done!