|Wesley Sneijder, Brazil's most hated man|
South America (or the Americas?). In the final 8 we had 4 South American teams, all of the qualifying team but Chile. Asia was out, Africa could only send one. And if Europe sent three they were after yesterday, clearly, the three best teams in the world. That is, you can be the best continent but that does not mean you own the best team. Those are still in Europe, like it or not.
Africa. We have been sold the idea that Africa football was on the rise, that the World Cup should go to Africa before it went back to South America, etc, etc... But the fact of the matter is that Ghana alone was a world class team; all the other were, well, I prefer not to say. Asia, or at least its Far East part, seem to have a better future than Africa. Whether we like it, being able to afford to establish local serious professional leagues is a must to eventually own a great team and, unfairly perhaps, no African Country can still do so and all depend too much on sending a player here and there to the European leagues. At least 8 more years to see a threatening Africa.
The exit of Brazil at the hands of the Netherlands. I have had always a soft spot for the Netherlands, for some obscure emotional reason dating from old world cups when as a kid I watched the Netherlands bite the dust twice at a final game. When France is not playing my sympathies were always for the dutch if they were still alive. If to this I add that I always root against Brazil (and Italy), you can imagine that the victory of the Netherlands over Brazil was the sweetest moment for me, with the added bonus of getting rid of the Kaka prissy kid. The short player surprise did not turn out to be Messi after all but Sneijder. Now I have my favorite for the World Cup final as I assume that the Dutch will overpower the Uruguayans.
Germany 4, Argentina 0. Yes, I know, normally I root for Argentina when France of the Dutch are out. But this year I could not do so because it was absolutely unethical, totally repulsive to have someone as morally discredited as Maradona on his private life (and political choices) redeem himself by winning a World Cup as a coach.
But that victory also goes far beyond a dislike of Maradona: it also reminds us the difference between star studded teams versus hard-work coherent united teams. Paraguay and Germany have shown that when everything is said and done, at the end it is the team that plays most unified, less selfishly, that overcomes. You can have Messi, and Tevez, and Higuain, and Maradona and make a media show at every opportunity but there will always be an unheralded Muller coming from behind to knock you out, to bring you back to earth. Argentina team was all fuss and the question is how come it went so far, to be so cruelly exposed as a nothing team by Germany. 4-0! At this level! Unbelievable!
There will be loads of analysis on that historic catastrophe for Argentina (very appropriate to the current Argentina Zeitgeist, by the way). For me it was that Maradona privileged his pals in the team, organizing it so that all of his friends would have a chance to shine and thus "forgetting" to organize all around Messi, the one that could erase his legend. Messi should have been the unquestioned center of the Argentina team and yet he will leave South Africa as the most painful unfulfilled promise for Argentina. Argentina joins France and Italy in the serious need to revamp completely its system, to reassess its priorities, its goals and vision.
As the French call it, the last square, in heroic memory of "le dernier carré" of the Imperial guard at Waterloo. But I digress.
Uruguay will face the Netherlands. Uruguay performance has also been heroic but easier than the other 3 teams (and Paraguay). I think it went as high as it can ever hope to go and this week the Dutch will put an end to that saga. We should admire Uruguay's feat but that is it (1). Though the World Cup has a way to bring unsuspected inner resources........
Germany against Spain is a tough one. Spain looked like the uncontested favorite and yet its road was difficult, full of self doubt. Germany gives the impression of having grown through the contest whereas Spain is not growing. Not bad but not improving. And yet I think that Germany's nerves will fail after the ecstatic victory over Argentina whereas Spain will be steeled after the harsh contest against Paraguay.
|The two teams of the final game?|
It does not matter who wins even if my favorite is the Netherlands: both countries deserve very much their turn at carrying the World Cup home.
1) Chavez has publicly endorsed Brazil and then Argentina bringing his usual bad luck (he also endorsed Venezuela in the softball cup just to see it lose a few hours later). I guess that Uruguay will be terrified to hear Chavez supporting them. There was a joke circulating yesterday, that Chavez would call for a cadena where he would wear the Spanish jersey as a way to avenge himself from being shut up by the King a couple of years ago....