Latest from The Football Ramble
Unless you’re old enough to remember football before the 1990 World Cup semi-final, the impenetrable assurance and efficiency of the German national team will have been just history to you until last night - a reference point of the past like Brazil in 1970, Hungary during the fifties and the total footballing Netherlands side of the seventies.
That’s not to say they haven’t achieved since a broken Gary Lineker offered his somewhat backhanded compliment after England capitulated to West Germany in that semi-final penalty shootout, but they’ve arguably lacked the cohesion and ruthlessness required to carry them through the seven games required to win a World Cup since that time.
The fact that it was the 5-1 defeat to England in 2001 that contributed to the decision to rethink their strategy is even more ironic now, given that they won this tournament at a canter while the Three Lions have been on the beach for two weeks.
Is anyone ready to have that conversation yet? No? Ok.
Let’s concentrate on the positives instead, shall we?
There were so many highlights in this competition it would be impossible to list them all, but now the clouds of gas emanating from British pundits and summarisers has finally cleared we can see that Germany were easily the best team of the tournament.
From Neuer’s control of his penalty area and beyond to Muller’s GPS-like accuracy when it comes to popping up in the box, they are a team in the traditional sense of the term.
They had their stand out players but the strength in depth to perform even when they weren’t firing. They tested the referee without invoking his wrath. They had self-belief in buckets but even when they battered the host nation 7-1 in their own backyard they managed to do so without hubris. They didn’t fall apart when one of the best players in that game, Sami Khedira, was injured in the warm-up, forcing a last minute change.
And when the moment finally arrived, so typically in the dying minutes of extra time, a twenty-two year old came off the bench with the words “show them you’re better than Messi and can decide the World Cup,” ringing in his ears and did.
The Little Maestro himself, winner of four Ballon D’ors, breaker of so many records it’s actually a record itself (probably), could only dream of such composure in front of goal.
It was a fitting end to a tournament that offers plenty for historians to chew over, not least the dismissal of a forward for biting a defender. The end of a football dynasty. A crushing, humiliating defeat for a country who took a game and made it beautiful. A terrifying, gigantic insect attaching itself to a penalty taker. Fred.
And while they’re doing that, we’ll be concentrating on adjusting to a life that doesn’t include three football matches per day and the knowledge that even when that joy does return, we’ll all be four years older, four years fatter and four years further away from representing our country at the highest level of football.
On the plus side, at least Rihanna will be too old for ligging at football matches. Hopefully.
By Kelly Welles
If ever there was a game in need of the Football Ramble’s guide to improving football, this was it.
The eight goal thriller of the previous evening loomed large over Netherlands vs. Argentina. Couple that will well drilled players knowing exactly who the other team’s key men were and stifling them accordingly and it becomes obvious that this was always going to be a tight, attritional game that set foot on the slippery slope towards penalties in the first half and rarely looked willing or able to step off.
So, having sat through ninety minutes of turgid footie, a further thirty minutes of extra time and a penalty shoot out are you seriously telling me a twelve foot pit full of water behind the goal line or electrodes in players boots programmed to issue electric shocks at a manager’s whim wouldn’t have improved this as a viewing experience?
Confident, isn’t he?
There was the odd stand out moment. Net puppy Jasper Cillessen attempting to prove van Gaal was a fool to take him off last time round (he wasn’t) by chucking in not one, but two drag backs as terrifying Argentinian goalscorers bore down upon him at speed.
The opportunity to debate once again exactly what evolutionary factors were in play when South American blokes developed skulls seemingly impervious to kicking.
Not to mention Arjen Robben’s stoicism as he turned away from his wife and howling, disconsolate son after approaching them in the stands.
What? You wanted proper football related highlights? Did you see the game?
By Kelly Welles
There was a point where it did get a bit embarrassing.
In the brief moment between the third and fourth goals maybe, when an almost imperceptible wave of realisation seemed to wash over the German players and for a second they understood the magnitude of what they were doing, and more importantly, what they could do.
The founders of o jogo bonito playing in their first World Cup on home soil since 1950.
A seemingly unbreakable bond between each other and their supporters, forged to drive them to glory despite the loss of their captain and their talismanic striker.
The romance and joy that would transcend football and lift a troubled nation.
Crushed beneath the might of a German side with a job to do.
♫ 7-1, even Sami scored, 7-1, even Sami scored ♫
It wasn’t the scoreline, although that was catastrophic enough. It wasn’t even the manner of the defeat or the ease with which the Germans shifted the ball around the broken Brazilians - whose faces reflected the disbelief, heartbreak and humiliation - and smashed it into the net time and time again.
It was the message.
The beautiful game isn’t yours any more. You might have given birth to it, nurtured it and cared for it for all this time but now it’s out there in the world and can choose to live with whoever wants it the most.
Luiz Felipe Scolari called it “The worst day of my life.”
Until he loses an FA Cup third round fixture to Rochdale, we can’t test the veracity of that statement, but we’ll hazard a guess that he’s feeling worse than our beloved Brian McDermott right now.
And for some considerable time to come.
By Kelly Welles
Having not wasted £90 on an England shirt, you should be perfectly positioned to cough up for some club apparel to celebrate the new domestic season.
Fortunately for you, kit manufacturers know this and have taken the opportunity to flood the market with exciting new footie wear in the hope that you’ll ignore your other half’s pleas for financial sanity and insistence that a fifth shirt in two years is not necessary.
Here are some of the items you could be wearing to your local pub’s singles night in just a few weeks time.
Manchester United (2014/15 home shirt)
It’s red and black, the launch video emphasised strong links to the local area as well as the importance of tradition at the club.
Which is presumably why they chose an American car company who’ve just pulled out of Europe due to poor market share to sponsor them.
Inter Milan (2014/15 home shirt)
While the internet was busy speculating about how many refreshments the Inter Milan decision makers had had before writing this press release about amendments to the club badge, they sneaked this new home shirt out.
Are they hoping the hardcore don’t notice that a new pinstripe look has replaced the iconic stripes or is this simply a matter of keeping up with the noisy neighbours?
On the plus side, it’ll go beautifully with a work suit.
Everton (2014/15 home shirt)
Not being fashion aficionados in any sense of the term, we have no clue whether the narrow stripe is en vogue on the catwalks of Paris and London. It does appear to be de rigeur among kit manufacturers though, with Umbro being the latest to experiment.
The new Everton home shirt boasts not just any old stripe, though. What you see here is a “textured micro shadow stripe”, which along with navy grandad collar and dropped hem make one of the cleanest footie blouses we’ve seen in a long while.
It comes with a free stick on pencil moustache and hipster sideys too. And if it doesn’t, it should.
Liverpool (2014/15 third kit)
There’s no such thing as bad publicity. Warrior tested this theory fully with their first go at Liverpool’s third kit, but fans will be relieved to see that the American manufacturer has taken a less migraine inducing approach with this season’s effort.
Admittedly it’s not perfect. There’s a sash - a difficult look for a grown male to pull off at the best of times - but it’s blended quite nicely with the black and grey stripes and is an effective way of getting the traditional red into a design without making it look forced.
Or like you might find a 3D image of Luis Suarez’ gob in it if you cross your eyes and stare.
Still got some cash left over? Looking for a way to make yourself stand out on the pitch for reasons other than your footballing ineptitude AND donate to charity to placate your still furious partner?
Juventus defender and armed mugger puncher Leonardo Bonucci is auctioning off these ace limited edition World Cup shinpads to raise money for Live Onlus - a charitable project dedicated to raising money for local causes.
Players featured include Gigi Buffon, Mattia De Sciglio and Salvatore Sirigu as well as the lad himself.
Unsurprisingly, the Daniele De Rossi ones are already gone. They really thought the Colosseum could contain him?
By Kelly Welles
Getting a tattoo to commemorate a player being sent home from a major tournament for biting the opposition is a poor judgement call at best.
We’re hardly ones to criticise. But at least all our crap tattoos are spelt correctly.
By Kelly Welles
H/T @BbhoyMcCallion, via 101greatgoals.
Norrkoping striker Alhaji Kamara responded to a second yellow and subsequent red card in his side’s Allsvenskan fixture vs. Orebro yesterday by running off the pitch, screaming his little heart out.
No idea why. It’s not as if Kenny Pavey was after him.
By Kelly Welles
This section is edited by Kelly Welles, to contact her please send her an email.