Sunday, February 25, 2018

All hail the Germans

 I KNEW that my $200 win bet was in trouble when I saw there were more German sausages than Argentinian beef on the barbecue by Alfred before Sunday’s game.

Not that there wasn’t a lot of support in that part of Trinidad for La Albiceleste, their fans outnumbering the backers of Die Mannschaft, including Shrimp and Andrew, along with ex-Portugal/Brazil turncoat King in his German kit.

And the chants of “Argentina…clap, clap, clap…Argentina…” rang out, even more so when they “scored” and a punter with plenty money on the line ran around the yard, until everyone realised it was offside.

Ten minutes before, Higuain was gifted a German backpass and couldn’t trouble Neuer. A dreadful miss! And when Messi spurned his opportunity, you just felt it in your bones that the efficient Europeans were the ones who would get the job done.

With the exception of Messi, Argentina lacked the creative touches to unlock the machine, with pistons to connecting rods to crankshaft working in unison.

It wasn’t a classic game, but Goetze scored a goal worthy of winning the Copa Mundial and, after 24 long years, Germany were the world champions again.

And no one should begrudge them the glory, pacing themselves through easy wins, tough draws, close victories, and the piece de resistance, the massacre at the Estadio Mineirao, where the football world was turned on its head.

After that triumph, who could stop them?

Messi, maybe, but he never got the striking support, what with Aguero unfit and Di Maria out injured.

Rather than with their previously potent attack—which I thought would take them all the way—Argentina made it to the final with dour defence, the back four supported throughout by the excellent Mascherano.

And while Argentina failed to fire up front, the Germans just kept coming, their two substitutes combining for the winner, Schuerrle’s precise pass being finished brilliantly by Goetze. 

The new champs had to overcome injuries to key players—in the final alone, Khedira pulled a calf muscle in the warm-up and his replacement Kramer only lasted 32 minutes until he left the field in a daze.

But in typical Teutonic fashion, they hardly missed a beat on their way to the title, even though the Algerians will still be ruing their wasted chances.

Back at Alfred, there were no bigger smiles than those of Shrimp and Andrew. They had waited a long time for this and it was worth it, as the adoring fans showed at the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin and all around Deutschland since the return of their conquering heroes.

They love their football and now Germany has the makings of a dynasty.

They were worthy winners of a wonderful World Cup, which featured the first two weeks of non-stop action, from that freaky Friday when the Dutch put five past the defending champs, followed by so many edge-of-your-seat games. And it continued through the round of 16, with more than half going to extra-time.

It “sputtered” a bit after that—I think that’s the word Shaka Hislop used—with what I had marked as a quarter-final worth going miles to see—Germany vs France—not living up to expectations, with the French maybe showing the Germans too much respect.

Then there was Tuesday July 8, when a new world order was confirmed and a once mighty opponent was thrown out of its own party.

And we wait with bated breath to see signs of its revival.

Unfortunately, it may be long in coming.

But the Brazilians can take pride in having put on a terrific tournament.