Gary Lineker, not given his full due as a philosopher, once said, “Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end the Germans always win.” It’s as true now as it was in Gary’s prime.
After an inexplicable twenty-four year gap, Deutschland finally lifted Jules Rimet once again after last night’s 1-0 win over Argentina. And they deserved it, not just on the night but across the whole of the tournament. They were unquestionably the best side. I went into the match not really minding who won or lost, but with the thought in the back of my mind that I had predicted before everything in Brazil kicked off that Argentina would win it all. So I was sort of slightly pushing for them. But once it got going, I definitely felt myself willing the Germans on, and the deeper into the match we got the more I felt that way. Particularly in extra time, when the Argentinians gave up all hope seemingly of winning through playing better football and just started to throw their elbows around recklessly. Plus, it was nice that the game was won on a brilliant goal; Gotze’s effort would have been endlessly replayed even if had been a sort of David Platt off-my-backside-didn’t-quite-know-what-was-going-on stinker, so the fact that it is a genuinely fantastic piece of football is a relief.
Messi has been named the player of the tournament, which I think is a misstep. Truth is, yes he scored four goals and had some great moments, but for what will have been the prime World Cup, played in his home continent, of the so called best player in the world, his performance across the last month has to be considered a monumental let down. There are rumours that he isn’t entirely fit and that would partly explain his lack of form. Still, last night was his night to shine – and he blew it, that last second ballooning free kick over the bar beautifully summarising it all for Argentina.
So that’s that. Until 2018 and Russia, which we were all reminded of before last night’s match kicked off when the cameras caught Putin and Blatter in the posh seats, yakking and laughing like the best of mates. I could insert a joke about autocratic regimes with an overlay of faux democracy right here, but I’ll digress instead. To ask whether the doom-mongers are correct in asserting that this is “the last real World Cup ever”. To be fair, this is a discussion only going on in snooty intellectual circles, and probably only in London at that. The gist of it is that because the next two World Cups are in less than ideal places, that this signifies some sort of death of the Beautiful Tournament. It’s easy to counter this argument – the World Cup has been held under some very dodgy regimes in the past without a dent in the tournament’s standing (Argentina in 1978 immediately springs to mind). And while intellectuals care a great deal about the politics of FIFA and of host nations, most football fans would watch the World Cup if you held it in Somalia while whole stadiums of fans were being executed. So long as the goals kept coming, of course.