Mario Goetze scored in extra time with a masterclass finish to give Germany their fourth World Cup title in the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Here are my final thoughts on the highlight of the best world cup in recent memory.
Germany stuck to their game and did not adjust to Messi
The game plan was simple. Die Mannschaft just did what they were doing the whole tournament without fear and with a belief that they would live (or die) with their system. Playing with a 4-3-3 formation with no intent on man marking Messi made the game enjoyable as the Germans controlled possession and pounded the Argentinean defense with plenty of half chances. This in turn also allowed the Argentineans to have plenty of dangerous counter attacks but there was still confidence on their defense particularly with Phillip Lahm, Jerome Boateng, Matt Hummels, and the towering Manuel Neuer.
Germany’s attack was toothless throughout the first ninety minutes as the Europeans were suffocated with the disciplined South American defense. Still relying on their system, the then three-time world cup champions just continued their attack which eventually pushed the Argentinians to their physical limits. This limit was breached in extra time as a fresh Mario Goetze perfectly controlled a Andre Schurrle cross and sending a half volley towards the opponents goal. The Chelsea player was having a very ugly game but acquitted himself in extra time with that game winning cross.
Argentina almost played a perfect game
Many thought that Argentina was just gonna roll over and die, but not me. I wrote off the South American team’s defense thinking they would not progress against Belgium, but their performance in the quarters and semis convinced me to think otherwise. Argentina’s other best player of the tournament in Javier Mascherano led the Argentinian defense last night and boy they were good.
Snuffing out wave after wave of attack from the Germans, the defense really held their own and not giving Germany any convincing chances for most of the game. It was only in extra time that they missed to mark Mario Goetze which led to the decisive goal.
As I have forcasted, Gonzalo Higuain would again find the back of the net for the third game in a row but unfortunately for him he was really offside. He also missed the best chance for Argentina from a Toni Kroos’ horrific backpass header but his finishing failed him as he mishit his volley on a Neuer one-on-one. Messi had his chances but most of them where either too narrow or he was clearly affected by fatigue and Neuers intimidating presence on goal.
This was Lionel Messi’s last chance to win the World Cup
Surrounded by an ageing core and with no known young replacements in sight, It will be hard for Messi to return to the final four years from now. Winning the world cup to him would have cemented his place world history as Maradona’s equal, and erase the notion of him being an outsider in Argentina. Messi grew up and honed his skills in Barcelona’s La Masia (football academy). To me, has already proven his worth as a legend but it could have been a more fitting ending if he had won it this year.
Sepp Blatter got a warm reception in the awarding Ceremony
Clearly not the fan favorite in this World Cup, FIFAs President was serenaded with boos once he was flashed on screen during the awarding ceremony of this very controversial world cup. A hilarious summary of the controversy by comedian John Oliver can be found here. The humiliation can be considered as sweet (but partial) justice for the Brazilians who stand nothing to gain from this World Cup.
Looking forward to Russia 2018
It is fair to say the the Germans may win again in the next world cup. Having the same young core while losing Basti Schweinsteiger, Phillip Lahm, and Miroslav Klose will still make them top contenders for the Russia tournament. Its also interesting to note that star Marco Reus could now be available after getting that injury weeks before this years tournament. The Netherlands would also be an interesting prospect as this batch of young guns may return with injured playmaker Kevin Strootman. Many things can still happen in the next four years and hopefully the Russian summer weather would be more friendlier than the Brazilian heat.