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Germany Above All

This is the first World Cup since 1998 that I have not won the “office and friend pool” World Cup Predictor Bracket.


I just want to throw that out there.

I won the last 3 – and although not a large group – it’s still a streak I was proud of. Back in early June I picked Germany to meet Argentina in the final — but I thought the Germans would struggle and lose. Remember, this is a national team that – until today – had lost more finals than they had won. And I figured that they would struggle to win a world cup final in Brazil. Boy am I glad I was wrong!

The streak I didn’t think would end has finally become a thing of the past: A European soccer team has traveled to the Western Hemisphere and won the World Cup trophy.

First European team to travel to Western Hemisphere and win the World Cup

Congratulations to the first European team to travel to the Western Hemisphere and win the World Cup – Germany 2014


It was a nerve-racking final game. Argentina was missing one of their best attackers (Di Maria) and Germany was missing the midfield excellence of Sami Khedira. Honestly, I thought that both teams struggled for long periods of the game due to these missing players who have played such an important part in the other games.

So let’s rank the final 4 teams of the tournament and see where they stack up:


I thought Brazil was a bit lucky to get this far. In my opinion they made a terrible team selection from the outset. Their coach chose poor strikers. Fred and Jo were abysmal. I’m betting that almost anyone could have been as dangerous as Jo was on the pitch, and I’m sure we all could have fallen over as many times as Fred did in the penalty box. The team was missing a wise head in midfield. While they had Neymar they were dangerous – yes – but he was mostly dangerous due to his dribbling skills and speed. He was more of a dribbling-to-be-dangerous player, only combining with others when forced to. In the early rounds he often chose to “go it alone” rather than combining with teammates to create a simpler path to goal. They needed someone like Kaká to keep possession in attack better, and they should have played Willian a whole lot more.

And their defenders — what is there to say? David Luis heading a ball back onto his 12 yard line for the Dutch to hammer home instead of just hitting it out of bounds? Seriously!? Even young American defenders know not to do that! Maicón was guilty of some of the worst defending a World Cup has ever seen. Cafú – the legendary Brazilian right back – was probably dying watching Maicón struggle out there. The Brazilians seemed content to let their defenders smash 60-yard balls down the field “Chelsea-style” to pick out their forwards. No Brazilian team of the past has played this way. It was both parts hilarious and sad to behold.




Holland gave us one of the treats of the World Cup, dispatching a woeful Spanish side in the early rounds. But as the competition became more difficult, they struggled to score goals. They got a bit lucky to score 2 against Mexico. But then they went two full games plus two extra times and couldn’t score a goal against Costa Rica or Argentina. This is not the usual behavior of a World Cup winning team.

Of course once Holland faced Brazil’s porous defense, they re-discovered their goal-scoring form, winning 3-0. Which just goes to show how bad Brazil’s defense was.

Overall – Holland’s defense was great. They did a great job shutting down Messi in the semi final. The great Lionel Messi was hardly noticeable on the pitch. Ron Vlaar especially had some great tackles taking the ball away from Messi in multiple one-vs-one situations. After the opening round, Holland only gave up one goal over 3 games.

Offensively they relied too much on Arjen Robben’s dribbling. Sneidjer wanted to combine with people — and when they did combine thru the middle — they did create chances. But more often than not, in the knock-out rounds, they would pass the ball to Robben and rely on his dribbling to break down the opponents. Honestly – how much combination play does Robben do? Hello…. total football anyone?

The “dribbling plan” almost worked. (And it did save them against Mexico.) There were two times against Argentina when Robben beat the defense and could have passed the ball to another player to score. But no! The curse of Robben and his desire to take his extra touches doomed the Dutch again! Against Argentina, Huntelaar was twice left waiting for a pass in front of an open goal to win the semi-final. But Robben took an extra touch, Mascherano made the game-saving tackle, and the chance was lost.

And finally, it’s difficult to fault a ‘keeper about losing a penalty shootout – but didn’t it look like some of those Argentinian penalties were saveable? Tim Krul made some big saves against Costa Rica — where was he when they needed him?




Argentina never looked like hitting the highs of their 1986 triumph. To me they were mostly a one-man team in terms of creating anything on offense. In the knock-out round, Argentina needed extra time against the Swiss — the same Swiss team that the French put 5 goals past. Messi juked through some defenders and laid off a slide-rule pass to Di Maria to win the game. In the quarterfinal an accidental deflection put the ball onto Higuaín’s foot for a nice first-time finish, but it’s not like Argentina broke down Belgium’s defense. In the semifinal Messi was shut down by Holland’s excellently strong and fast defenders, and — tellingly — Argentina again struggled to create scoring chances. Argentina’s best chances to re-discover their goal scoring came against a slow (Howedes) and injured (Hummels) German defense in the Final — and even though they were gifted with multiple one-vs-one chances, they could hardly put a shot on goal.

Overall, they were a very organized team defensively. They were difficult to break down and the goal keeper made some great saves. Offensively, Lionel Messi wasn’t nearly as dangerous as I had feared he would be. He scored some great goals in the early rounds, but unlike Diego Maradona, he didn’t deliver much as the competition wore on. In 1986, Maradona scored or assisted 5 of their last 7 goals in the quarters, semis and final game. On the other hand, Lionel Messi didn’t score after the opening group games, and notched one solitary assist.

You would think that with the fearsome attacking talent of Gonzalo Higuaín, Sergio Aguero, Di Maria and Messi they would have scored more goals, but I believe they didn’t because they focused their play too much through one player rather than interchangeable combination play.




What is there more to say than the best team won? Germany survived Algeria and realized that their defenders were too slow. So they subbed out Mertesacker (finally!) and took care of France in the quarterfinals in a snooze-fest. I’m not sure how many dangerous attacks France created after going down 1-0, but it wasn’t many. The semi-final against Brazil was over even before Neymar’s injury and Thiago Silva’s suspension. I predicted Germany’s disciplined attack would be too much for the free-wheeling Brazilians over a month ago. I just didn’t realize how bad it would be! And it could have been worse!! Some say Mezut Ozil purposefully shanked his shot wide towards the end of the game because as he approached — he saw the Brazilian goalkeeper crying and he felt bad. Some say….

The same problem affected the Germans that often does — they are missing a true goal scoring threat. The fact that the Germans won the World Cup with a 36 year old striker leading the line, missing their (possibly?) most influential central midfielder (Sami Kehdira), and had an injured center-back (Hummels) that played despite a knee injury shows how much of a team they truly had. 

I believe the Germans were victorious because of the way they focused on playing combination football, with lots of diagonal runs, triangles and intelligent attacking movement off the ball to break down their opponents. They didn’t have their best attacking player in Brazil, so they had to rely on true team attacking football. Germany’s best striker, Marco Reus, tore ankle ligaments in a warm up right before the world cup and was unable to attend. If Reus had come to the World Cup, I can only imagine what would have happened to Brazil that night!

The final wasn’t the best game for Germany – they struggled to break down an organized and motivated Argentinian defense. And they were lucky that Argentina couldn’t score goals. Argentina were lucky that Germany hit a post and missed multiple open shots on goal from inside the penalty box. Argentina had multiple one-vs.-one with the German goalkeeper, but quailed each time at the crucial moment.

In the end, the difference was that German striker Mario Goetze took his chance where the Argentinian strikers did not.

And what a goal it was!!

Super Mario's Super Moment

Super Mario’s Super Moment


What are your thoughts? Was FIFA right in giving Messi the “best player in the tournament” award although he scored no goals after the opening round and registered one single assist?

If not, who was better?





  1. Gordon
    July 13, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    Best young player was James rodriguez from Colombia

    • July 13, 2014 at 11:10 pm

      Yeah, I thought he was great!! I love his volley against Uruguay and his cheeky chip-in against Japan. What a player!!

  2. Sandy
    July 13, 2014 at 11:08 pm

    Germany tops Argentina again. Congratulations to Klose for being the top world cup goal scorer ever.

  3. July 13, 2014 at 11:12 pm

    Good for Klose. The Germans were making comments about the Americans using German-born players in the lead-up to our game against them, but let’s not forget that the Germans use Polish-born Klose and Podolski….

    I guess the Germans didn’t like the record of most world cup goals belonging to Ronaldo. It didn’t last long — just 8 years. Now it’s back to the Germans again.

    Thanks for your comment.

  4. Jeff
    July 14, 2014 at 11:06 am

    Brazilians chose the wrong players, which was obvious from the beginning. Forget the obvious no-go performances of Hulk, Fred, Jo, and others; Brazil chose players who best fit a non-Brazilian style of play. Think back to these World Cups: 1994, 1998, and 2002. They won it twice, and they were in the Final vs. France in the other (let’s ‘forget’ about the unfortunate Ronaldo event/poisoning/bad-luck leading up to the Final…). In those years (and in all years when Brazil plays like Brazil…) Brazil’s strength in defense was NOT organization, but rather speed of transition, hunting the ball down (‘immediate chase’ in soccer coach parlance) and individual strength as defenders. In short, sprinting like mad to get the ball back, and then either resting/re-organizing while they kept the ball, or cutting the heart out of the disorganized and/or just-starting-to-move-forward defenses of the opposition. This year they played a low-pressure, get-behind-the-ball kind of defense. Um, no. I think there were 8 yellow jerseys in the penalty area when Schuerrle’s 6th goal went in. Simple push pass at the 6 yard box. I think there were almost the same number of players in the box when Wijnaldum’s goal went in late in the 3rd Place match. Somewhere, Lucio and Aldair are vomiting.

    Brazil’s strength in offense is a creative, dribbling-to-set-up-the-unexpected combination play type of style. This year, it was players who thought thumping the ball forward was going to work against quality athletes in organized defenses. It did not.

    This is not the fault of the players: they perform as the coaches require. The problem is the very players that were put on the field in the first place. I hope that Brazil goes back to its roots and chooses players that solve soccer problems in a traditional Brazilian fashion. Look back at the three cups preceding the ’94, ’98, and 2002 successes: ’82, ’86, and ’90. Some of the soccer was brilliant, and some of it was not, but NO BRAZILIANS were ashamed of how their team played, and no one felt like a little (a lot?) of Brazil’s soul was lost. How’s that working out right now? Anyone reading Brazilian dailies?

    • July 14, 2014 at 5:44 pm

      Great summary. Brazil thumping the ball forward was the most amazing thing I think I have ever seen in a world cup — especially one hosted in their own country.

  5. Jeff
    July 14, 2014 at 11:48 am

    Regarding Messi and Maradona and Argentina. And England. For a very long time I’ve been saying that Maradona was the best player the world has ever seen. Not my favorite, because I love the style and beauty and completeness of Zinadine Zidane, and in a time of soccer genius (Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, Kaka, others) he was the best number 10 on the planet – but I digress…

    1. Germany scored 18 goals in 2014. Argentina scored 8. Even if you take ALL of Germany’s goals away from the Brazil game, they still scored 37% more goals than Argentina. Best team at the tournament by a wide margin.

    2. Messi is great. I saw an article recently that broke down his particular genius through Statistical Analysis of Everything, which stated that Maradona never did all the amazing things that Lionel Messi does. Uh…you know what Harry Truman said, right? Messi, who is humble, awesome, scary great, and beautiful to watch, also doesn’t disappear from big games the way CR7 does (I thought CR7 wasn’t on the field vs. the U.S. until he made a certain perfect cross from the right wing…). But where was he against Holland? And Argentina REALLY needed him to hit that left-footed shot from inside the box in the Final…

    3. Diego Maradona suffered 32 (or was it 36?) fouls against his person in the OPENING GAME of 1990 vs. Cameroon. Go look at what happened in 1982, 1986, and 1990 – he was skinning people, making perfect passes, and keeping himself from getting kicked apart by outrageous bungling charges, studs-up tackles, and dangerous assaults. Players like Messi have NO IDEA what it was like to be hunted and kicked and fouled over and over and over like was allowed in the ’80s and ’90s.

    Oh, and Maradona scored or assisted on 10 of Argentina’s 14 goals in ’86 – while being man-marked by (multiples of ?)the best athletes on the planet. And he lifted the Cup. Only Zidane’s efforts to put an average-at-best group of teammates on his back equals the incredible results of 1986 and 1990 for Argentina through Maradona’s brilliance.

    For me, it’s down to Maradona, Zindane, and the Fenomeno (R9).

  6. July 14, 2014 at 5:52 pm

    Nice comment

    You can call it tired, or uninspired, but Messi did not deliver when his team needed him to (and he needed to!) if he wants to be considered one of the greatest of all time on the world stage. Scoring against Iran? Putting two in against Nigeria? They were great goals, no doubt. But even Jozy Altidore scored twice against Nigeria in a world cup warm-up game.

    They needed him as the lights grew brighter.

    And I think he knows it — Messi knows he missed his chances against Germany, and his teammates did as well. If Burruchaga and Valdano in 1986 had finishing touches like Higuaín and Palacios in 2014, Germany would have beaten Argentina back then too.

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