Glorious Germany, Hapless Higuain, bye-bye Brazil

What did the final tell us? It's okay to like Germany, Messi can't do it alone, and we're already missing the World Cup.

Germany deserved to win

In recent years Germany have enjoyed an unlikely status as the neutrals’ favourites. But with the softening of their image came the suspicion that they had lost the steely ruthlessness that brought them so much silverware. This team played the best football at Brazil 2014, but also showed the toughness to mix it with Argentina for 120 in an absorbing but attritional contest. Germany traded blows in a sapping contest then, when the opportunity to make history arrived, Mario Goetze seized it. Argentina had Messi. Germany had the best team.

Not your night, Gonzalo

For your Argentinian fall guy, look no further than Gonzalo Higuain, who compiled quite the catalogue of misery. Coming into the game with just one goal this World Cup, his lack of confidence came cruelly to the fore when played clean through by an errant Toni Kroos back header. Higuain steadied himself... and dragged the ball wide from 12 yards. Then he did have the ball in the net and wheeled away in delight, sprinting 40 yards before spotting the offside flag. After the break he was flattened by the onrushing Manuel Neuer, and suffered a final indignity when hauled off for the rat-tailed Rodrigo Palacio.

Poor Lionel Messi has spent his career being challenged to win the World Cup single-handedly. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t been able to do it. Argentina’s ultimate failure was not down to Messi, but the failure to come to the party of the country’s other sparkling attackers – Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Ezequiel Lavezzi. Messi spent his tournament chasing after wayward passes, taking on half a dozen players single-handedly and trying to spark a lacklustre team into life. Nobody wins a World Cup on their own – not even Diego Maradona. Let’s just enjoy Messi for the wonderful, life-affirming player he is, and stop demanding the impossible from him.

...but James Rodriguez should have won the Golden Ball

Never mind that Colombia went out in the quarter-finals, Rodriguez was – by no small margin – the best player at the World Cup. He scored six goals in five games and produced moments of pure magic in all of them. Arjen Robben also outplayed Messi or – if you wanted to make a point about football being a team game – you could have gone with Thomas Mueller. Messi didn’t deserve the individual honour, and having to receive it, dejected, at the end of the final rather summed up a farcical decision.

The concussion debate is here to stay

Christoph Kramer’s sad withdrawal after half an hour was the third example of a player attempting to continue despite exhibiting clear signals of possible concussion – Alvaro Pereira and Javier Mascherano were the first two. As the Germany midfielder stumbled on before being armed groggily from the pitch, it was another blow to football’s credibility. This is not just FIFA’s issue – the club game is equally negligent when dealing with players at risk of serious brain injuries. And as the game grows in the US, where the NFL has agreed to pay nearly a billion dollars to ex-players over historic concussions, football will continue to attract scrutiny as long as it neglects to offer players a semblance of protection.

We can all shut up about European teams failing in the Americas

Four years ago, Spain became the first European team to win the World Cup on another continent. Tonight Germany were the first Europeans to win it in the Americas. Only six teams from the Old Continent made it out of the groups, but as early front-runners like Chile, Mexico and Colombia faded from contention, it was football’s established powers who stayed the course. Germany inflicted a brutal national trauma on Brazil, but won the hosts back by seeing off neighbours Argentina in the final. Football is a global game now – continental advantage simply doesn’t exist any more.

We’ll miss this World Cup

You’d need a heart of stone not to sigh when TV cameras focused on the sun setting behind Christ the Redeemer early in the second half. As the lights go out on Brazil 2014, the debate will continue to rage about the greatness or otherwise of this World Cup. It may have lacked an outstanding team, too many names failed to make their mark, and the latter stages failed to live up to the freewheeling group stage. Whatever. It was always entertaining, and the idea of four long years until the next one is thoroughly depressing. Whether Brazil 2014 was a particularly good example of a World Cup doesn’t matter. It was a World Cup, and that’s enough to make it brilliant. We’ll even find a way to enjoy Qatar 2022. Just you wait.

This article originally appeared in : Seven truths: Glorious Germany, Hapless Higuain, bye-bye Brazil | | 13 July 2014 23:22

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