They Think It’s All Over, Actually It Is!

Quarter Finals Day 1
France 0-1 Germany
France had slowly began to build up a degree of momentum in this tournament, but Germany was a bridge too far for Les Bleus. Despite five French shots on target, the man mountain Neuer could have been little more invincible between the sticks if he’d have been allowed to build a brick wall along the goal line. Unfortunately for France and their history of building dodgy walls (the Maginot Line, very topical Johnny…), the Germans found a way through the French defences as early as the 12th minute with a decisive goal from Hummels. Germany had the midfield sewn up along with the majority of first half possession. France had a bigger say in the match after the break, but could not find a way past the magnificent Neuer.

Talking of goalies, there had been mention of this being a grudge match. Not for the occupation of France during World War Two, nothing so trivial, but for the meeting of the two nations in the 1982 tournament when the German Keeper Schumacher took out Patrick Battiston by completely ignoring the flight of the ball to fell the hapless Frenchman with a Hanomag Half Track that he habitually kept parked behind goal for occasions that required maximum brutality. He managed to complete the job by reversing over him several times to inflict three broken ribs, the loss of a couple of teeth and an intermittent comatose state. The ref didn’t even see fit to award a free kick, let alone send off the German for what was widely interpreted as a deliberate assault. The referee in fact awarded Shumacher an on-the-spot Iron Cross for his contribution to the furtherment  of the art of grievous bodily harm. To rub salt in the wound, the match went to penalties with the Germans progressing thanks to two saved spot kicks from the gigantic German. To seal any degree of vengeance, the minimum impact required is to win the match. As they failed to attain the minimum requirement, the effect was severely diminished. Nay, nullified and Germany go on to face the host nation, Brazil in the semis.

Brazil 2-1 Columbia
Jumping the gun a bit there, as Brazil had to beat Columbia first and I certainly had this down as the point that the Brazilios would finally be found out and despatched from their own tournament. Columbia had looked like a very capable side in the World Cup so far, with the prolific Rodriquez bagging a choice goal or two. Brazil had blundered their way through with a mixture of helpful refereeing decisions, beneficial fixturing and a whole host of Zurich originated back slapping.

On the day, Columbia were strangely out of sorts and Brazil looked like the better side for the first time in the tournament. An early goal from captain Thiago Silva settled Brazilio nerves, but he was later ruled out of the next match by picking up a yellow card. In the second half, some level of daylight was achieved with a second Brazilan goal as David Luiz lifted a superb free kick over the wall and out of reach of the flailing Columbian keeper. It was never a free kick though and the ref seemed to have an unhelpful level of affection for Brazil throughout the match. Columbia’s chief threat was obviously going to be goal machine James Rodriguez, this threat was tactically reduced by kicking the lad up in the air at every opportunity. At the end of the match, his legs would prove to be the ideal reference material for anyone requiring a detailed colour chart for a redecoration project; providing – of course – that their chosen colour ways were black and blue.

It didn’t all go the way of the Brazilios, however. In addition to losing their captain for the next match, they also lost what was apparently one of the greatest players in the world, as Neymar was careless enough to attempt to injure a Columbian’s kneecap with his spine. The backbone is an unusual body part with which to attempt an injurious assault on an opponent and this remarkably bad choice of weapon was to prove a major error resulting in Neymar cracking two vertebrae. Tschh, modern players, Bert Trautmann played on with a broken neck!

A Columbian goal ten minutes from time prompted a late flurry of action as an equaliser was keenly sought. Always difficult when playing against twelve men, however, and Brazil go on the meet Germany in the semis.

Quarter Finals Day 2
Argentina 1-0 Belgium
Widely tipped Belgium faced many people’s tournament favourites Argentina in the concrete capital Brasilia. This was a bit of a damp squib of a game in truth. Belgium failed to find any fluidity until late in the game when they resorted to lumping it long to Fellaini. Argentina, weren’t much better really and most of the praise in the media seemed to be reserved for Messi (who is apparently the best player that there has ever been. Ever.) Words like ‘balletic’, ‘precision’, ‘pirouette’ and other such winsome  nonsense were dragged out of the ‘hackneyed football writer’s thesaurus’. Reading between the lines, you would deduce that in a piss poor game, featuring largely mediocre performances one bloke having a decent game stood out. That doesn’t fill the column inches though, does it? Oh yeah, Argentina won 1-0.

Holland 0-0 Costa Rica (Holland win 4-3 on pens)
One more place in the final four was up for grabs and logic would tell you that Holland, destroyers of the world champions, should look the favoured side against surprise package Costa Rica. Costa Rica, remember, are a country of with no armed forces, a size of population that would comfortably fit in a Ford Zephyr and whose highest previous honour had been a third place finish in the equivalent of the Huddersfield & District Sunday League Second Division. Armed with this dossier of fallibility, Holland stuck ten men behind the ball for the majority of the match! Even Robben was strangely vertical for a much greater proportion of the proceedings than usual. The spoiling tactics were sufficient to force (!) a penalty shoot out and, for this, Van Gaal took the unlikeliest decision of the tournament to date. With seconds of the goalless extra time to spare, he substituted the keeper, bringing on Newcastle stopper Tim Krul. Bizarre though it had seemed, the decision bore fruit as Krul performed wonders to keep out Costa Rica in the shoot out. A replay of the 1978 final between Argentina and Holland was now on the cards.

Semi Final 1
Brazil 1-7 Germany
In the 1979/80 promotion season, Huddersfield Town Beat Port Vale 7-1. Such was the seismic proportion of this result and fantastical likelihood of scoring so many goals, the BBC teleprinter offered helpful confirmation by supplementing the result the word ‘seven’ in brackets afterwards (seven). If the teleprinter had still been a fixture in the BBC studio, it may have repeated this feat, but added several exclamation marks and, ‘really! We’re not shitting you!’ The wheels fell off the Brazilian bandwagon big style! The last time Brazil were ‘humiliated’ in their own back yard, by losing to Uruguay in the 1950 Brazil World Cup, they changed their strip from all white to the yellow/blue/green combination that is more familiar to us today. Perhaps their next game will see them sporting the all black mourning strip? If the Brazilian nation had been in custody, charged with impersonating a footballing world power, they would have had their belts and shoelaces confiscated.

I haven’t even mentioned the match yet! After a brief initial Brazilian flurry of activity resulting in a lame dive in the box that concluded with the award of precisely bugger all, the game took a decisive turn. In the 11th minute, the Germans took the lead. That was just the start, before the half hour was on the clock, Germany had blitzed Brazil and were to go into halftime 5-0 up. Brazil were shell shocked and chasing shadows, they simply didn’t know what the hell had hit them. After the break the Brazilians looked a little livelier for while, this is down to the Germans apparently agreeing at the interval to ‘go easy on them’. Whether this is true or not, goals six and seven followed and a bit like Huddersfield Town’s seven goal haul against Palace in 1999, chants of ‘we want eight, we want eight’ could be heard (or should that be ‘wir wollen acht’?) And just like Town v Palace, Germany were visibly annoyed with themselves for letting in a consolation goal. There was a very real possibility that the Earth could be knocked marginally off its orbit as a whole nation’s jaws collectively hit the floor.

Don’t want to say ‘I told you so’, but…

Well, Spana Man's changed his tune!

Well, Spana Man’s changed his tune!

Semi Final 2
Holland v Argentina
For the chance to meet Germany in the final, Argentina and Holland would play out another edition of ‘Roald Dahl’s Tales of the Entirely Predictable’. A stultifying ninety minutes of, what was fraudulently described as, football gave way to a further soporific half hour of goal mouth non-action. Not even ‘the best player in any known galaxy (in the past or will ever be at any point in the conceivable future), ever’, could wrest the match out of its torpor. In fact, the best chances fell to him and he fluffed them. Come the final minute of extra time, Van Gaal realised that he had been remiss enough to use all of his three substitutions wastefully on outfield positions. With Tim Krul marooned on the bench, there was only ever going to be one result, especially with the officials allowing the, now regulation, standing a yard off the line for South American keepers. The Argentinios were no great shakes and had the Dutch been more adventurous there’s no reason at all why they could have stuffed Argentina in the ninety. It was not in the tea leaves, however, and it was to be a Germany/Argentina final.

Booby Prize
Brazil 0-3 Holland
The third placed play of is the most meaningless game in world football, with that in mind, the biggest surprise was that the Brazil team dared to show their faces in public for the possibility of not even being good enough to win a match that had no worth whatsoever. I remember the England v Italy match in Italia 90, It would have been better for all concerned to have simply flipped a coin. As it was, Brazil’s humiliation was complete with another drubbing at the hands of a Northern European side. At least they kept it to single figures.

The Big One
Argentina v Germany
When confronted with errant German tourists on holiday in Spain, my Dad was often known to utter that immortal phrase, ‘Who won the bloody war anyway?’ If it had been Germany, then we would all be driving round in German cars, dancing to the financial tune of Berlin and supporting the German national team…wait a minute! We’re not all speaking German yet though, nicht wahr? If for no other reason than to see a European side finally win a World Cup in the Americas, my support was firmly behind Germany. However, falling at the final hurdle of this epic blog, I have to admit that I didn’t actually see the final! I was unavoidably driving to Essex. I caught a fair bit of the second half on my phone whilst at a lengthy standstill in a traffic jam, but only heard most of the match. It was a chess game by all accounts and only a phenomenal goal by Gotze saved the match from a penalty shoot out with seven minutes to spare.

The Germans have always been prolific at winning, which we know to our own cost, though their style has often been rather mechanical. This time the Germans not only win matches, but are an exciting team to watch. Argentina, for the record, failed to land a single shot on target in 120 odd minutes of football. The biggest squandered chance fell to the ‘best player in universes not yet discovered’, when he was put though on goal and put the angled shot wide of the post. It didn’t get much better to be honest and Messi looked increasingly tired and isolated as the match went on. That’s the way it sounded anyway!

The Brazilios were given the Jules Rimet Trophy for keeps after winning it for a third time. Germany have now won this trophy three times. Do they get to keep it? You can bet they would be a good deal more efficient at hanging on to it than the Brazilios; you can’t imagine it being half inched from under the German’s noses to be melted down into Big Ron-style medallions. In fact, the way they played in this tournament, I can’t see anyone taking the trophy off them anytime soon!

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