Football: Looking forward to the final
By Coen Lammers in Rio de Janeiro; 3:37 PM Saturday Jul 12, 2014.
The air seems to have gone out of the World Cup.
Except when you are German or Argentinian of course.
But even the supporters of Monday’s finalists will admit that the host country has not just gone into mourning but is keen to wipe the World Cup from their collective memory and ignore that silly match for third place.
After not seeing a drop of rain in Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro for the entire tournament, the heavens opened up since the semi-finals, and the locals have commented that even the football gods are crying for Brazil.
The Brazilian players are making the politically correct noises about redemption on Sunday morning but in reality they all just want to sneak off to some holiday resort and hide under a rock.
The Dutch have been a bit more up front and coach Louis van Gaal said that there was only one prize and that Sunday’s game is a farce.
The Netherlands played for third place in 1998 after a similar, heartbreaking penalty shootout loss against Brazil and virtually rolled over for Croatia.
Many of that generation have since voiced their regret for not trying harder as they left a fantastic tournament with the hollow feeling of two defeats, so assistant coach Patrick Kluivert, who was part to that team, can possibly inspire the team to give it one last crack.
Hopefully, the Brazilians will rediscover their ‘jogo bonito’ and the match in Brasilia could turn into an attacking extravaganza if both teams truly don’t care who wins.
The final, however, will be a different affair.
It’s all on the line, and with both teams sharing the cup victories in the 1986 and 1990 finals, there is plenty of history to fuel the contest.
Having watched the Argentinians four times in the flesh, I expect they will park the bus against the rampant Germans who must be on a high after their semi-final destruction of Brazil.
Coach Joachim Loew though will realise that the Belo-horror was one out of the box and we may never see a repeat in another 20 World Cups.
Argentina will not collapse like the Brazilians in the semi-final and with four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi, they have a player who can change the nature of the final in a split second.
Sadly however, Messi has shown only flickers of his unique brilliance and been unable to put his stamp on the tournament, so the Argentine collective will again have to step up to stop the German machine.
We now know that the Germans can score from anywhere and most importantly, they look as fresh as they did in the opening rout of Portugal. While the Argentinians, Dutch and Brazilians all looked drained from the long World Cup and their marathon club seasons, the Germans are still running their opponents into the ground with their blisteringly fast attacks.
With their iron-clad defence they may even be hard to break down for the little flea from Barcelona.
Still, a final is a one-off contest where anything can happen, so let’s join an expected four billion people around the globe to enjoy the return of the football World Cup final to the sacred grounds of the Maracana.
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(Reuters) – Argentina captain Lionel Messi and record-equalling Miroslav Klose of Germany rode to the rescue of their teams with trademark goals on another day of rich entertainment at the World Cup on Saturday.
Messi snatched a 1-0 win for Argentina against plucky Iran with a typical piece of brilliance that put them in the last 16, while Klose equalled the record for World Cup goals of 15 with a classic poacher’s effort to salvage a 2-2 draw against Ghana.
Messi struck in stoppage time in Belo Horizonte with a superb curling strike, although a moment of genius from the four-times world player of the year added sheen to a lacklustre display from one of the tournament favourites.
The goal, a cruel blow for the Iranians who several times came close to taking a shock lead, was enough to put Argentina through from Group F with a game to spare and was Messi’s second of the tournament after his stunner against Bosnia.
“With Messi, everything is possible,” Argentina coach Alejandro Sabella told a news conference. “Not even two goalkeepers could have stopped that Lionel shot.”
With the clock ticking down, Messi looked to be in an innocuous position when he received the ball on the right in the 91st minute.