By Dan Leach
It was a picturesque day in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, as one of the best World Cup series of all time came to an end. It has been just under a month of soccer brilliance played at the absolute highest level in front of billions. Two nations that had met in two World Cup finals in the past, with each winning one, tangled again for soccer immortality.
In 1986, Argentina got the best of West Germany, which was the watershed moment for the best ever from his country and one of the best players the world had ever seen in Diego Maradona. Then there was the next World Cup in 1990 where the West Germans triumphed with a late penalty kick to win their third title.
This year’s record third final between the same teams had a true contrast in styles as the Germans, the epitome of precision and grace, were coming off the insane 7-1 thrashing of host Brazil in the most lopsided semi-final in Cup’ history. On the other side, you had the gritty, crafty, and defensive laden Argentina, which boasted the greatest player ion the world in Lionel Messi who was looking for his seminal World Cup moment after mainly misses in the past.
Both soccer-mad nations were looking for a title that would be cherished for generations as the Germans last won it all 24 years ago and for Argentina it had been almost 30 years. Billions watched worldwide as what likely will become the most single watched sporting event in history commenced.
Many thought that after the German rout of the Soccer Samba’s that this would be an easy march to their fourth Cup title, but Argentina had much different ideas as their defensive approach completely thwarted most of the German attack. The opportunities for Germany were few and far between compared to the Semi, and it was actually Argentina with the two best opportunities, including a heartbreak effort in the first half by Gonzalo Higuain that was called off-sides. That was the goal that could have changed history for Argentina , but it was just not to be.
The game reached a crescendo late in regulation and seemed destined for extra time as both sides poured their hearts out for 90 minutes. As German sub Mario Goetze came on in the 88th minute for the all time goal scorer in World Cup history, Miroslav Klose, there was no way to know at the time he would end up as a national hero a short time later.
Deep into the 30 minute extra time session with under 10 minutes to go until penalty kicks would decide the World Cup for the first time since 2006 — and only the third time ever — Goetze had a different idea in the 113th minute. He broke through the Argentine defense on a brilliant run and scored an absolute beauty of a Cup clinching goal, that will for sure go down in German history as one of their proudest moments, sports or non sports, ever!
That is why the game of soccer, this World Cup, and the sport in general is just so beautiful. Two entire nations hung on every pass, kick, dive, and scoring opportunity to be able to celebrate as a nation. These past four weeks have been magical for so many, including an up and coming U.S. Men’s National Team, which captivated the hearts of millions of Americans.
Some will never care or love the “Beautiful Game,” but what the World Cup showed is that if you give it a chance, if you open your mind and heart to a game that is beloved by billions on this planet, you just might enjoy yourself. Congrats to Germany, the best team won soccer’s biggest prize, but not after a truly gutsy fight from soccer royalty themselves in Argentina. Even though it s four long years away, 2018 in Russia simply can’t come soon enough. Gracias, Danke, Merci, thanks for the memories.