With a thrilling swish of his left foot, Mario Goetze sent his nation into rapture ending a captivating four weeks of drama. Not so much a renaissance of German football as it was the fruition of a long term plan, this German side imbued the perfect mix of grace, solidity and resolve. Owing to a conveyor belt of talent, they now possess the most gifted players in the world and triumphed despite losing Marco Reus, the best of the lot, to injury. With such a tender group of players they are surely the masters of their own destiny going forward.
It says much about the progressive nature of German society that they waste little time on the frivolities of immigration. If Mesut Ozil, the son of Turkish immigrants, stole the show on his own in South Africa four years ago, this time around he was joined by a stellar cast with each inscribing their own name amongst the greats.
With some truly forgettable coverage from Phil Neville, Ian Wright and Clarke Carlisle, amongst others, the rest the tournament produced ample moments of unbridled joy. Enthralling games, outstanding individual performances and memorable goal celebrations, this World Cup had it all. From The Netherlands dismantling of the champions Spain in the opening round, Belgium's last 16 victory over the USA, to Germany's epochal thrashing of Brazil in the semi-final, hardly a beat could be missed. Not with an exhilarating Arjen Robben single-handedly dragging his team to third place, while a demonic Tim Howard stopped everything Belgian in sight or a punch-drunk Javier Mascherano playing on despite being knocked out cold in Argentina's victory over Holland. Not to mention the true star of the tournament, young James Rodrigues, now sitting pretty as the most coveted player in world football.
As for the hosts, it is a time they would prefer to forget. Unfortunately, when the national psyche is this closely entwined with the results of its football team, emotional stability will always be hard to come by. Fortunate to scrape past Croatia thanks to a refereeing assist, they stumbled in just about every game en route to their semi-final meltdown in Belo Horizonte. Quite why they were expected to win is anyone's guess when their frailties were evident throughout. In fact, from the emotional outpouring following their penalty shootout win over Chile that left their players gasping for air, it was clear that this team lacked the composure required for major success.
It was fitting that Brazil's tournament took place under the watchful gaze of Christ the Redeemer for the Seleção stand desperately in need of a heady dose of salvation. As self-appointed guardians of the game, nowhere is the sense of self-entitlement in the football world greater than in Brazil. Yet, since 1982 they have rarely played the free-flowing samba football that they are bizarrely acclaimed for. The idea of Brazil as the home of the beautiful game is a myth and one that deserves to be challenged for it lacks the supporting evidence. If anyone is entitled to claiming footballing perfection, it is the recent Spain side who won three international tournaments on the bounce, a staggering feat, while playing the purest form of football.
As for the game itself, it is a crying shame and utterly deplorable that it finds itself firmly in the grip of FIFA, an illicit organisation possessing the classic hallmarks of corruption. This is the organisation that ensures all its profits from the tournament are exempted from tax as well as forcing temporary laws upon a host country to suit its own ends. Like South Africa before them, it was difficult to imagine Brazil putting up any meaningful resistance to FIFA. For that reason, it should make for fun viewing watching the FIFA behemoth roll into Moscow attempting to force Russian authorities to bend to its whims. Despite the best efforts of the corporate goons at FIFA, Brazil retained enough of its authenticity to provide a thrilling spectacle. Though beset by endemic internal problems, it was the Brazilian public who have really caught the imagination in this tournament.
As sociologists attest, ties of kinship are cultivated strongest in less developed societies and it is this particular trait that has shone through in abundance at this world cup. Be it the warmth of the favelas, the hospitable welcome at every bar or simply the infectious chatter of a taxi driver trying to transport you to your destination at 60mph through rush hour traffic in São Paulo, all while watching the day's football on a mini television stuck to the dashboard. It is the majestic beauty of the landscape allied to the indomitable spirit of its people that have made this a World Cup to remember. From atop Sugarloaf Mountain, Adeus Brazil, thank you for the memories.Suggest a correction