Brazil has almost certainly never had a worse 24-hours of football.
After yesterday’s German spanking, their arch-rivals Argentina won the right to challenge for the title Brazil thought would be theirs, in the theatre of Brazilian dreams, the Maracanã, in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday.
Suddenly, there are a lot of Brazilian Germany fans.
After the excitement and sheer jaw-dropping nature of the first semi-final many feared the second may not live up to expectations, and boy were they right. This was ninety-minutes of extraordinarily dull, often average football, with three minutes of play by Holland in injury time, some thrills in extra time, and two fantastic saves from albiceleste keeper Sergio Romero to create a Euro-American Final which could be a fascinating encounter.
Highlights of the game included a couple of accidental injuries to Argentina players, (Pablo Zabaleta appeared to lose a tooth in a head collision and staggered around like a Brazilian playing against Germany before soldiering on, his face stuffed full of cotton wool); Arjen Robben barely diving all match and having a last minute shot blocked heroically by Javier Mascherano; and half of the stadium thinking Gonzalo Higuain had scored when he poked a beautiful cross into the side netting.
Lio Messi, whilst still being industrious and tough to tackle, disappeared for large swathes of the game. In fact, he failed to touch the ball in the Dutch penalty area for the complete two hours of the game. On the other side, The Netherlands didn’t manage a shot on target until shortly before the 100 minute mark!
The over-all standard of play was pretty poor all round, (prompting some at the Fanfest to wish they had just shown a re-run of the other semi-final…although not Brazilians), leading to the first ever 0-0 in a World Cup semi-final.
Germany must have been rubbing their hands with Teutonic glee.
Which probably means they’ll lose, which would be the ultimate humiliation for Brazil: their enemies not only winning the title, on their turf, but doing so against a team which had trousered the hosts so thoroughly in the previous match.
Is it too much of a stretch to suggest that Dutch coach Van Gaal’s mind games in the previous round against Costa Rica may have cost his side in the shoot-out? Not having a spare substitution to make at the end of the 120 minutes, his regular goalie was forced to stop the penalties after having been essentially told last time out that he wasn’t good enough.
And he wasn’t, (despite the fairly despicable practice he shares with Tim Krul of trash wasting time and trash talking penalty takers before each spot kick). At least this proves that Van Gaal was probably right first time round, as Argentina won the lottery of penalties™ 4-2.
So, with my last evening at the (half empty) Fanfest spent explaining to random Argentines that I wasn’t actually from Argentina, just a fan of Buenos Aires club Racing and hence wearing their jersey, my World Cup time in Salvador has come to an end: tomorrow begins the final leg, a flight to Rio, and 72-hours to fight as many Argentines as I need to in order to get hold of a ticket to Sunday’s final.
Stay tuned for updates from the South!
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