World Cup 2014: Fun While It Lasted

I know why you’re upset. France’s dreams of a second World Cup championship have been guillotined by Germany.

Of course, there was that other match. The one pitting five-time champion host nation Brazil and cumbia-dancing underdog Colombia, who, along with Costa Rica, had been one of Latin America’s Cinderella stories this year.

Truthfully, I’d predicted wins for France and Colombia this 4th of July. Notwithstanding what sports analysts say about the strength of teams who play a possession game, the way France and Colombia were playing this year, I expected Benzema and James to keep Germany and Brazil on their heels. Both teams’ playing style — quick assists and constant shots on goal — surely should’ve been worth one or two goals.

But, alas, experience won out. Though not the flashiest of teams, Germany and Brazil know how to win matches.

Not only did all three of today’s goals come from set pieces, they also came early in the matches (Mats Hummels with a header in the 13th minute, Thiago Silva with a knee-in in the 7th and David Luiz with a free kick in the 69th), Germany and Brazil both scored early in the matches, allowing them to play even more conservative than they’d planned.

The possession-oriented tactic was expected from Germany. It’s how they’ve played (and won) for years — holding on to the ball back and forth, looking for free kicks and corner kicks — even though star midfielder Thomas Müller is quite capable of firing shots in on the run.

Brazil, on the other hand, has been a bit of a (disappointing) shock. Fans of “The Scratch” are accustomed to the fast-paced, free-flowing style of play Brazil is known for, best exemplified by legends like Pelé, Ronaldinho, and now Neymar.

In fact, Neymar was the only man on the Brazilian side who ever showed any flash of brilliance so far in this tournament, but not that he’s out with a fractured vertebra after receiving a flying knee to the back from Colombia’s Juan Zuniga (seemingly accidental), Brazil’s matches from here on out will mostly be uneventful.

And the match against Germany on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte will bring together two powerhouse teams, each capable beating any team in the world, but who will likely bore the heck out of us non-German non-Brazilians.

That said, I’m still hoping Felipão’s boys to blast past the team whose nickname, “Die Mannschaft,” translates to “The Team.” I’m even hoping, as I think most of us are, that the host nation wins the whole damn thing. The people of Brazil need to win this badly, especially if they’re not going to get better infrastructure and a more equitable education system.

[Photo: Christopher Johnson via Wikimedia Commons]

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