On Sunday night, while watching the German fans celebrate wildly at the Maracana after their World Cup triumph, I felt a kind of reassurance in my mind. I always emphasised football as a team game and the German victory only strengthened my belief.
Like millions of soccer fans, I, too, remained spellbound by Lionel Messi’s acts of individual brilliance and wanted to watch him lift the cup. It did not happen because of Germany’s depth, their tactical superiority and flawless planning.
In the end, Messi received the Golden Ball and Germany got everything else — it was a perfect curtain call for a World Cup that saw some gripping drama for the past one month. From the very beginning, I have been saying that Germany would be the most difficult team to beat. In the final too, they proved their class.
Tactically, the Germans had more than one game plan — they were flexible in mind and in the feet. Full marks to Joachim Loew for breaking the Argentine flow led by Javier Mascherano, and also for using his substitutes in the most effective manner.
Loew, of course, was fortunate to have deep bench strength, something that Alejandro Sabella was lacking. So much so that in the final, Germany hardly had any problem without Sami Khedira.
And when his replacement, Christoph Kramer went out because of an injury, Andre Schuerrle fit in very well. Actually, the Germans came with four out and out ‘central defenders’ that made them rock solid at the back.
And whenever the defence needed some help, Phillip Lahm went from midfield to right back position to do the needful. They were truly a hard nut to crack. Loew’s move to slot Mesut Ozil into a deeper role also worked perfectly. I also feel that Sabella was a bit unfortunate to lose the match. Even with such tight defence and careful planning, Germany did not have Messi under complete control.
It considerably reduced the speed of the Europeans while going into the attack from the deep. But sitting on the bench, Sabella could do little except watch helplessly when his strikers missed crucial chances.
I know that not many liked it when Sabella took off Ezequiel Lavezzi and sent in Sergio Aguero in his place. But I could understand the logic behind it. He wanted Aguero to operate from the left and run inside during attacks. He must have asked Messi to use the right side more to disturb the German defence.
But Aguero did not live up to the billing — he lacked the thrust and the sharp movement. May be he was yet to overcome the fitness problem he had and could not give the needed support to Messi. Here, Sabella could not match the bench strength of Loew. But what can the coach do when top players like Messi and Gonzalo Higuain miss easy chances? I know it was a nervous night, but such acts were unpardonable.
In this kind of matches, as I have seen before, one flash of brilliance makes all the difference at times.
Substitute Mario Goetze’s act of chesting the ball to control it and then superbly volleying it past Sergio Romero deep into the extra time was just another example of how a match can be decided in a fraction of a second. I am not confident whether the youngster would be able to repeat it perfectly next time.
Many of us wanted the Argentines to win the Cup, but let us accept the fact that Germany were worthy winners — even the way they used Goetze as the ‘false nine’ in place of Miroslav Klose was a treat to watch.
During the presentation ceremony, I watched Messi to climb up a long concrete stairway to accept the Golden Ball award with a stony face. My heart went out for the remarkable footballer, but what happened was inevitable. His individual skills proved inadequate for collective planning in a team game.