All good things come to an end, and this one came to a good end. Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in the World Cup final, with a sublime goal from Götze, who’d come on to replace ace striker, Klöse. The German coach looks like a genius with that single stroke. His legacy is set, as is that of his team. On the other side, Lionel Messi will have to abide the view that his legacy is incomplete because he has not won a World Cup champions medal. That’s a bit of rubbish, in my view, because one player can rarely determine the result of a team match, certainly, it’s hard in football. Messi did not play a spectacular game, but Germany knew what they had to do and managed to corral his runs well, though he nearly slipped the net once.
Germany had few weak links. On the contrary, some players gave up too much body and soul. Christioph Kramer took a shoulder to his head early in the first half, and looked knocked out. As happens all too often, a trainer came on, and the player was led off the field for a cursory amount of ‘treatment’, and then returned to play. Within 10 minutes, Kramer had fallen down, and was then led off the field, looking and walking like a zombie, and was substituted. During the match, the commentators we had did not give any update on his condition. I have not yet seen any reports, either. But, it showed starkly something terribly wrong in football. Head injuries and the risks from concussions are not taken seriously. FIFA has a protocol for dealing with such injuries, but unlike in American football, where the NFL applies it’s rules rigidly, the round ballers repeatedly let the ball drop on this matter. I honestly think it will take a player dying on the field or soon after a match for the issue to be addressed seriously. It was Kramer’s first start during the tournament, and it was a sad end. But, his was not the only instance of dangerous head injuries during the match. Higuaín got a heavy hit from German keeper, Neuer. Also, Schweinsteiger was punched in the eye by Aguero, resulting in a nasty gash to his eye.
I noticed on Twitter that the topic got a lot of attention from well-respected football commentators, including former US national player, Taylor Tweelman. But, several mainstream media houses, such as ESPN and Fox Sports seem to be highlighting the issue and FIFA’s negligence. See one scathing piece by Slate. Let’s hope that national federations and professional clubs see the wisdom of protecting players from a needless injury and brain damage.
The consistent negligence regarding head injuries was the one real blight on the tournament, which showcased some simple innovations in match management. We can all understand coaches’ reluctance to rapidly switch their line up, but in the end they have a squad for a reason.
No doubt, Germany proved to be the best team over the whole series of matches. They were nearly derailed twice by African teams, and had Ghana taken a 3-1 lead in their group game, we’d still be wondering what had happened to Germany. But, they showed their mettle by dodging those upsets. Algeria took them to extra time in the round of 16, but quality rose to take that match, eventually. Neuer partly redefined goalkeeping to show its range to include a sweeper role, but he also showed the value of solid shot stopping and ball clearance. Germany was also the most clinical in front of goal. Brazil felt that worst of all. They also showed how to pass fast and accurately all over the field.
This was my third time seeing Germany reach a final game while I was in the host country, and they lost the previous two times. At least, I’m not a complete jinx.
Credit to Brazil, for pulling off the organization. Debt headaches aside, it was a good-looking job. Social issues were not far from the surface, and the amount of security personnel visible on the way to Maracana made clear that the government was not going to risk any mishap, whatever the core merit of grievances. That’s no big surprise. Those issues can’t be removed by demonstrations, but much can go wrong with such demonstrations.
Rio airport was filled with departing fans. Most got to watch the final before leaving, like we did. Almost, timed to perfection. I have to get my head ready to think about another trip to Rio for the 2016 Olympics. Then, Jamaica will have some direct interest, not having to live vicariously.