Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win,” former England striker Gary Lineker had said after the 1990 World Cup, where his team had lost to the eventual champions in a tie-breaker in the semis. It has taken 24 years for the saying to come true again, but there was an inevitability in the way Germany became the first European team to win the biggest prize in South America. Not many had doubted the outcome of the final after the demolition of Brazil. The three-time former champions were playing no-nonsense, practical football typical of them, and efficiency was the hallmark of their game rather than flamboyance. The script was no different in the final, although Messi & Co exceeded expectations and could even have clinched it had their strikers found their scoring boots. They had to bow to a side that was better prepared in every department and not dependent on individuals.
After the triumphs of Italy in 2006 and Spain in 2010, this result reemphasises that Europe is where the game is better cultivated, although it may have a spiritual home in South America. The presence of four European teams in the last eight was a reminder of this fact and Brazil’s capitulation suggests the game needs a major uplift in the country that breathes football. They were wonderful hosts, but the 3-0 drubbing in the third-place playoff indicates 7-1 was no fluke and regaining faith might take time.
As a spectacle, the 20th World Cup surpassed the last few editions. There was a remarkable increase in the number of goals and with varying degrees of luck and bad luck, most of the top stars showed what they are capable of. That way, the competition was a celebration of the beautiful game with a rider in the end that when superpowers rise after a period, history repeats itself. Like Brazil in 1994 and Italy in 2006, Germany, too, took 24 years to end their wait for the fourth.