While I strive to recover back to normality from one of the biggest ‘hurt’ of my life from the supposed-to-be Maracanã chapter of glory, I am submitted to natural boos and foos with the proud defeat on our feet. With the most ridiculous nature of timing of repeatedly meeting your same old foe every four years, my blood is submitted to boil more and more.
Till the two great nations met in Final of one of the biggest sporting events, expectations were high and even stats were favorable but we were compromised with the fact of staying a one-man team since day 1 which sportingly didn’t work in front of arguably one of the greatest teams ever to win the world title in football team.
Myself, I am not an Argentina football fan nor am I Argentina football supporter but I am just just just just a mad Argentina lover. This team has been widely inspiring the football lovers since Mario Kempes‘ heroics in 1978 till Carlos Bilardo‘s side led by the Argentine footballing God, Diego Maradona. I am lucky that I did watch him play in his last two world cups in my childhood, one when he was madly crying and other time, when he was arrested.
Then a long persistent break blocked the golden-fame of Argentina’s football and on that occasion rose the 2nd greatest era of their rivals when the best player of the tournament Roberto Baggio missed the penalty.
I kept searching the next Maradona in Ortega, Batistuta, Crespo, Aimar, Saviola, Riquelme but couldn’t find until I saw the boy on the bench coming to sub Maxi Rodriquez in that meeting with Serbia and Montenegro in Germany. That run!!! oh that run!!! in couple of minutes he assisted Crespo and then in few more minutes, he netted too. There I realized, the most happening thing in football has finally arrived, he surely was Jesus to God with an incredible footballing talent, he was that wonder baby-face kid, Lionel Messi.
Since that edition of world title, their old foe Germany has been the biggest hurdle towards the path of glory settled for Argentina. In last three successive World Cup editions, Argentina met Germany at some stage, tasted the defeat and lost the title. They are no more a foe but strangely have become angel of death, and that fact has become embarrassing now.
If I count that Rome defeat, then the cradle of curse chop Argentine shoulders even more with the darkest fact that Argentina in total have been knocked out four times by Germany in last four meetings on world’s biggest footballing stage. What a Curse!!!
That 1990 Final was a dirty referee game heavily aided the title to the wrong and undeserving team. The match was one of the most controversial ill-tempered final ever played in WC history. Selection of referee Edgardo Codesal was pathetic. He booked two red cards to Argentine players, denied one clear penalty when Matthaus tackled Calderon and last of all, gifted controversial penalty to Germany. Maradona cried like a baby, that could have been his back to back triumph in World Cups but was robbed of dirty decisions against his team. Sometimes I sense some stinky revenge in Beckenbauer’s mind for that loss to Maradona-inspired Argentina back in ’86 final. That ’86 loss to Argentina was also Germany’s first ever loss to an American side in World Cup.
2006 meeting saw a well balanced contest but again referee messed Argentina’s chances. Everyone watched what the-then German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann was doing in penalty shootouts. He was reading that small piece of paper-note reminding him where was he suppose to dive on whose kick. Argentine footballers begged for mercy and protested to referee but referee heavily ignored. We all witnessed the aftermath, Argentina’s frustration resulted into fighting and kicking the opponents after the shootouts. What a sad scene that was!! I am glad Sergio Romero did the Lehmann in semifinal penalty shootout and wasn’t blasted by football viewers. If Lehmann can do, then Romero can.
2010 meeting was a joke. This time even a more stronger German side took Maradona’s plastic team which looked strong only on paper. Germany humiliated Argentina by 4-0 with the biggest weakness brutally and bizarrely exposed, defense. The biggest inspiration Maradona was in fact the biggest depression in managerial tactics and was widely criticized. I am yet to understand what was Jonás Gutiérrez doing in that 2010 side. Absence of our main weapon, Juan Riquelme, was badly missed.
THE 2014 STORY
Internal footballing politics has damaged our football strength. If Riquelme rejected playing under Maradona in 2010, present coach Alessandro Sabella promised with himself to never ever select Carlos Tevez for God knows what reason. On the record, Tevez has never been considered since Sabella joined the team as head coach. Despite wonderful season with Juventus, Tevez was not even picked in preliminary WC squad.
And we paid the price! Argentina’s dangerous looking strike force was once again on paper, lacked meat with no chemistry of counter attacking. As expected, the pirates relied on the captain of the ship. It was a strange moment for me to realize that a never-expected weak-looking defense was actually my team’s backbone instead of hugely-expected strong-looking strike force. Marcos Rojo shined at his box, Demichellis proved worthy as veteran, Zabaleta kept his Manchester City form with him and Garay was above-average. Di Maria and Mascherano heavily took their duty specially the latter was inspirational and motivational. His semifinal performance was one of the best midfield show in world cup.
In strike-force, Aguero-Palacio-Higuain-Lavezzi were very disappointing. Higuain at least netted once but the rest just surprised me. There was seriously no threat among the strikers. Ladder to success and path to glory fell upon the lone warrior, their captain Leo Messi. A huge pressure mounted upon him as not only the team but the whole nation and millions of his supporters were expecting him to win the World title and stand among the ranks of Pele, Maradona, Beckenbauer, Zidane and Ronaldo.
There are two aspects of losing the title; either Messi didn’t inspire in last two games or his teammates could just not took his vision into their strength. His team scored only 8 goals throughout the tournament; half by himself, each by Rojo-Higuain-Di Maria and one was an own goal. 6 of the 8 goals were netted in the group stage, the rest? one reached the net in dying minutes before penalty shoot-outs while the other was netted by chance due to opponent’s deflection. The team remained goalless in last two most important games.
Argentina struggled in every single game, none of the games played was convincingly or one-sidedly won. The team was blessed by unarguably the easiest group with less than average teams. Despite the fact, Argentina was so weak that debutant Bosnia and Iran performed extraordinarily against them. In fact the African fancy team Nigeria shocked in last group stage game when they scored equalizer over Argentina twice. More to a misery, they made Nigerian forward Ahmed Musa the first Nigerian footballer to score a brace in a World Cup game.
Supposed-to-be easy game in Round of 16 turned out to be last call to train. Shaqiri inspired Switzerland kept them goalless until the dying minutes when Messi assisted Di Maria. Belgium game in quarters tested Argentina’s strength and Higuain hit the deflected ball behind Courtois. Semifinal proved the real clash where Mascherano and the army of defenders controlled the game while Dutch defender Ron Vlaar magnificently controlled Messi upto the level that Messi on the record couldn’t touch the ball inside Dutch box for the whole 120 minutes!!! Kind of rare achievement by Louis van Gaal‘s team.
One major plus which made the team progressed to the final was goalkeeper Sergio Romero. Romero, who is not even first-choice goalkeeper of Monaco FC, gave the performance of his life and from the second Nigerian equalizing goal, he didn’t concede the next goal by approximately 490 minutes. After superb Mascherano show in 120 minutes of semifinal, it was Romero who saved the penalties twice in penalty shoot-out marching the team towards the final.
The team still fancied their chances of lifting the trophy against the mighty Germans. Joachim Löw has successfully shaped Germany into one unit with a remarkable winning combination. Löw was assistant of head-coach Jürgen Klinsmann for couple of years until 2006 WC edition. In those days, Klinsmann’s side had improved a lot as compared to the side managed by Rudi Völler. Being historically the most consistent side in the World Cup, Germany became ruthless and more physical under Low as compared to Klinsmann.
One major reason of Löw’s managerial success should be credited to the recent managers of their professional association football league Bundesliga. Two of the most heavy-weight league teams, Bayern München and BVB Dortmund have enjoyed the services of brilliant coaching under Ottmar Hitzfeld, Jürgen Klopp, Louis van Gaal, Jupp Heynckes and now Pep Guardiola. These last 5-7 years noticed one of best findings uprooted in local league, who played under-21 and joined the senior ranks at some stage.
German football system polished one of finest products. It is now on the record that six of the eleven German boys, who were part of 2009 UEFA Under-21 Championship FINAL win against England, played the Final of recent World Cup. Names were Manuel Neuer, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Benedikt Höwedes, Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels.
Despite the fact that Marco Reus and İlkay Gündoğan were injured and not part of the World Cup, the team stayed firm. With the blend of experience and talent headed by their finest manager Joachim Löw, this Germany team of 2014 was one of most complete team ever won the title.
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