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World Cup 2014 Finals finally over
Ah, now I can have my life back.<fn> <h>Why are <i>you</i><fn> watching?</h> I honestly don't know what comes over me when the Soccer World Cup or the European Championship is on. I never watch club football. I know some of the teams and know where some of the players play, but that's it. I know many names, but don't follow assiduously enough to even halfway qualify as a fan. I am strongly critical of FIFA and their politics, corruption and influence. It's probably a giant waste of money. At least some of the officiating is almost certainly paid off. It doesn't matter, though; I watched pretty much every game of the World Cup. <h>Enjoying the game, not a particular team</h> I can enjoy it in a way not open to real fans, though. I find myself unable to just root for <i>my</i> team no matter what happens the way so many others do. I have two passports, but no real allegiance to either of them. I was happy to see both teams---Switzerland and the U.S.---play well overall. They were both punching above their weight class, with Switzerland playing Argentina well and---<i>almost</i>---to a standstill and the U.S. tying Portugal and only losing 1--0 to the overwhelming might of what would end up being the eventual overall winner Germany. Instead I was free to root for the team I thought played well, or better <i>on that day</i> instead of just rooting for a team even though they were playing like crap or were playing boring football that was beneath them. <h>Crowing Messi the King (no matter what)</h> I didn't root for Brazil at all because they looked inept and unconvincing out there---almost from the very beginning. Only Neymar showed real flair. I didn't root for Messi simply because he's Messi, as so many others fell all over themselves to do. That guy has real talent, but it's not like his shit doesn't stink. There were times, believe it or not, where Messi was ineffective. I heard commentators give Messi the lion's share of the credit for a goal that he "started" by passing to someone who passed to someone who passed to someone who scored. I saw FIFA nominate Messi as the man of the match in the final---an honor that even caused Messi to curl his lip in embarrassment. Soon after, he was awarded the golden ball for being the best player in the tournament. Of course he was. Argentina scored 2 goals in their last four matches of the World Cup. They forced us to watch 360 minutes of (nearly) scoreless soccer instead of 270 minutes of exciting, score-full soccer. I couldn't get on the Messi train <i>in this tournament</i> because he had a few flashes of brilliance in that long desert of scorelessness and was subsumed in the overall somnolence engendered by the rest of his humdrum squad. I'm sure he's brilliant on Barçelona---in fact, I've seen him play a few times and it was lovely. His skills are evident. But he does have bad days. The world should acknowledge it and maybe give the man of the match to Götze, who saved us all from having to watch yet another scoreless final be decided on penalty kicks. Or give the golden ball to an exciting scorer who scored goals that mattered, like James Rodriguez of Colombia or Arjen Robben of Holland, who was ever-so-exciting to watch. Or Klose, who became the highest-scoring player of World Cup history with two more goals this year. Or one of the goalies, like Ochoa of Mexico or Bravo of Chile or Navas of Costa Rica, all of whom kept their teams in the tournament much longer than anyone thought possible. <h>Slowing down toward the end</h> With many of the games in the so-called knock-out round, there was very little to love. Bad teams played very carefully and defensively. Good teams played very carefully and defensively. Teams that had previously derided others for counter-attacking were now doing so as their main strategy. I'm looking at you, Argentina. I read that Argentina was awesome because they'd held their opponents scoreless for 457 minutes prior to Götze's goal in the second half of the extra time in the final. I find it hard to agree---especially as a fan who had to suffer through watching so many scoreless minutes. The worst transgression wasn't that those minutes were scoreless but that they were so uninspiring. <h>Glimmers of hope</h> Games that <i>were</i> interesting included a match between Ghana and Germany in which Ghana punched well above their weight. Algeria would similarly give the Germans much more trouble than more vaunted and well-known foes---and deliver a much more interesting game, to boot. In the final rounds, Colombia produced some exciting football with James Rodriguez exceeding expectations. The Netherlands improved continually until they were stopped in their tracks by Argentina, against whom their offensive inventiveness abandoned them. Robben reached into his bag of speedy tricks and came up empty. Holland had triumphed against Costa Rica in their first of two scoreless matches against incredibly defensive teams. Netherlands would be back on the offensive against Brazil, which showed up with its tail between its legs to lose the "small final" 3--0. The much-discussed thrashing of Brazil by Germany has been detailed enough elsewhere but it was quite breathtaking to behold. And there was really not very much of luck in it, to be honest. That Argentina held up so much better against Germany was surprising to me, but I'm willing to consider that luck on Argentina's part---if not the luck on the field, then the luck that the German team that showed up to pulverize Brazil remained much more cautious in the actual final. <hr> <ft>Because of wholly unforeseen and unavoidable claims on this writer's time, this article was finished weeks after it was started.</ft> <ft>Read with the implied "of all people"</ft>