A Magazine on the Cutting Edge of Pop Culture
By: John Parry
For the third time, Germany will face Argentina in a FIFA World Cup final.
The Germans blasted through Brazil, the tournament’s host team and Nate Silver’s pick to win it all, with four goals in four minutes. The final score was 7-1 in favor of Germany. Miroslav Klose scored his 16th World Cup goal, surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo’s record.
Brazil was expected to struggle on offense without Neymar, but the defensive collapse was truly astonishing. The loss of defensive captain Thiago Silva, who was suspended for one match after accumulating two yellow cards, was more devastating for the hosts.
Combined with a German squad that was finally healthy and in peak form, Brazil was in trouble. Still, the Germans themselves were surprised at how easily their opponents folded.
German head coach Joachim Loew called the Brazilian defense “not organized,” and added: “A little humbleness would not hurt now.”
By contrast, Argentina and the Netherlands remained scoreless all the way through extra time. Neither side attacked the goal strongly, either. The ESPN play-by-play announcers seemed bewildered by the conservative play, but the explanation seems obvious: Nobody wanted to end up looking like Brazil. Argentina prevailed 4-2 in penalty kicks to advance to the final. In the third-place game, the Dutch cemented Brazil’s embarrassment by drubbing them 3-0, handing them their second-consecutive World Cup defeat — something that hasn’t happened to Brazil since 1974.
Germany-Argentina is a storied World Cup rivalry. The two countries hold five championships between them; Germany is seeking its fourth and Argentina its third. They’ve also met twice in the finals. Argentina topped West Germany in the 1986 final, and West Germany reversed the outcome in the 1990 final. The 1986 final elevated Diego Maradona to superstar status as he led Argentina to a 3-2 victory, while West Germany’s 1-0 win in the 1990 game was considered less thrilling.
What should we expect from the 2014 final? For one thing, don’t expect a repeat of either semi-final. Neither team is going to give up half a dozen goals, nor will they sit on their hands and wait for penalty kicks. Argentina likely won’t be able to stop Germany from scoring. Even so, they’ve got plenty of offensive prowess in Messi — who draws pressure off of his teammates, if nothing else. Manuel Neuer has been fabulous in goal, but his propensity for dashing out of the cage to play sweeper could turn into a mistake at any given moment. What you’re guaranteed to see is excellent soccer, with flourish, fundamental beauty, and of course, thighlights.