|Highlight of the night: the sun sets over Christ the Redeemer above Rio|
Dreadful. Goalless. Disappointing. Poetic commentator Peter Drury can show us all the glorious sunsets in the world, but the World Cup Final simply let us down.
|The long-awaited winner: Mario Gotze scores|
And that was only right. After a fascinating tournament in Brazil filled with shocks and surprises, Argentina successfully sucked the life out of the Germans and left us bemoaning on the second 0-0 final in history, with the USA in 1994 the only previous example.
It’s harsh blaming all this on the Argies, but in truth, look at their record. Like Spain in South Africa four years ago, they managed to stay goalless throughout the knock-out stages, over seven hours of defensive buttressing.
But up front, despite an embarrassment of striking riches, two goals in four games. Ugh. Lionel Messi showed glimpses, but never enough to persuade anybody of my age he’s another Pele or Diego Maradona.
His highly-rated, over-priced strike partners Gonzalo Higuain – who missed one and had another ruled out (rightly) for off-side – and Kun Aguero were largely unimpressive too.
But then what can we say about the Germans? Top scorers in 2010. 17 in Brazil. The record-breaking 16-goal Miroslav Klose went off before the 90 minutes were up, Thomas Muller – their leading scorer for both tournaments – was painfully lacking.
In the end, it came down to extra-time. Germany had most of the possession in the first half but shut up shop in the second. Argentina did little to set the pulses racing. All commentator Drury, the football poet, could offer was nice pictures of Christ the Redeemer with the sun going down.
He said: “If you don’t find that view breathtaking, there’s something missing in your humanity.” There was. A goal. Three World Cup finals going to extra-time in a row? After a tournament where former winners Spain, Italy and England went home early?
|No cause to celebrate: Higuain after his disallowed goal|
Where Tim Krul came on as a penalty specialist? Where Cameroonians head-butted each other? Where two African sides reached the knock-out stages for the first time? Where Neymar broke a vertebra and Tim Howard saved more shots in one game than anygoalkeeper before? The old Suarez bite and ban and move to Barcelona?
Great stuff. It started with Holland 5, Spain 1 and, in truth, ended with that unbelievable semi-final: Germany 7, Brazil 1.
But always, lurking in the background, Alejandro Sabella, the man who played for Sheffield United and Leeds back in the 80s. Perhaps that’s where he learned the unbeautiful game. Under him, Messi is too often reduced to a midfield worker ant. Under him, when Lavezzi starts running at the opposition too much, off he goes. Under him, Argentina are little more than Stoke City on steroids.
In a tournament where a record NINE of the knock-out games went to extra-time, we were forced to endure another 30 minutes of stale-mate. Italian referee Nicola Rizzoli managed to keep all 22 players on the pitch, though Kramer was felled by a hefty Garay shoulder and Neuer nearly beheaded Higuain.
Extra-time gave us chances for subsitutes Schurrle and Palacio but no goal. Until SEVEN minutes from penalties, Bayern Munich's Mario Gotze produced a chest-and-volley finish to provide Germany with the edge they needed.
It was the first goal Argentina had conceded since the group stages. The first time EVER they had let in during World Cup extra-time. And the final kick of the match belonged to Lionel Messi, the man who threatened to eclipse the great Diego Maradona. He didn't. He ballooned his free-kick over the bar... and probably on the head of Christ the Redeemer.
|Moment of triumph: Germany lift the World Cup|
Messi was awarded the Golden Ball as best player of the tournament, but it was hardly deserved given his performances in the knock-out stages. Both Jerome Boateng and Bastian Schweinsteiger were magnificent throughout. James Rodriguez of Colombia takes home the golden boot while Manuel Neueur, the German giant, deservedly carried off the Golden Glove as keeper of the World Cup.
SOCCERBALLZ! my innovative football show on www.ballz.co.za with Mark Fish airs every Thursday from 9am-11am. See Ballz' channel for our growing library of fascinating football interviews with the big names. Ballz will also provide daily World Cup updates from next week.