Argentina, Germany, World Cup

German depth and genius won them the World Cup

IMG_4184This world cup final was one to behold, many many people (including me), were watching with a hopeful eye, wishing that Leo Messi would bring glory to Argentina by beating Germany (like Maradona in 86), and not just cement his legendary status, but allow him to be crowned as the best player of all time. But if one thing was proven by today’s result, it’s that football is a team sport, and every member of Germany has stepped up at one point or another to offer a decisive game winning moment… More on this later…

Germany Celebration World Cup pic copyThrough the first half of the game it became clear that Argentina had the edge, as Messi, Lavezzi and Pérez ran at Jérôme Boateng and Mats Hummels. This opened up space for crosses to Gonzalo Higuaín, and although he was caught offside for one of his finishes, I thought i was a nice indication of things to come.  Unfortunately for them, Argentina weren’t able to capitalize on many of those runs, and in the second half were also halted. That said, Messi played really well behind the top striker, it allowed him space using his dribbling and create chances from midfield (he should play the same role behind Saurez at Barcelona this year).

Towards the end of the second half, Germany’s attack was at it’s best, taking advantage of a tired Argentine defense. But ultimately, neither team could find a goal by the end of 90 minutes. And, in extra time it was really clear that Argentina couldn’t attack full steam ahead as it would have been a risk for their defense. It’s worth mentioning that a huge part of their defensive success was due to Javier Mascherano, who had the World Cup of his life – his performances have been top notch and have proven that he’s still in his prime at the defensive midfield position.

When Mario Götze scored in extra time, one thing became very clear: Germany have more depth Gotze Germany pic for blogthan any other team in this tournament. While Argentina also has a lot of attacking talent, they weren’t able to effectively replace Di Maria, whereas when Marco Rues went down for Germany, they still had more than enough players to come on and play well enough to replace him. Some of their other players didn’t even have a chance to shine at this World Cup due to their massive amount of depth and talent. For example, Julian Draxler didn’t have any role on this team/nation, yet he would have started for most of the others that battled it out for the cup. Germany proved that the World Cup is a battle of attrition- they have such an experienced and well disciplined squad – their team has gotten so far in previous tournaments and failed, yet this time they were more than ready to take on every challenge that was handed to them.

Leo Messi Argentina pic for blogI’m not sure how this loss will affect Messi’s legacy, especially as he won the Golden Ball, an award given to the most excellent player at the World Cup. All considered, he played admirably through each match, even despite the fact that he didn’t score after the group stages. Unfortunately for him, he couldn’t produce a moment of brilliance today to take the life out of the German squad. Furthermore, his determination and drive to show up on such a large stage was extremely apparent today – He was awake, ready, and motivated as he took on the German defense more than once all by himself. Gonzalo Higuaín also played well throughout the tournament, although today he had a difficult time, missing an easy opportunity in the first half when the ball was essentially passed to him for a one on one with Neuer (a moment that I’m sure will haunt him for years to come).

But anyways, congrats to Germany for a great performance at this year’s World Cup!

Also, attention to American readers – please follow The Soccer Dice on twitter for a chance to win a new Adidas World Cup Soccer ball (just click the twitter link above, then click follow, and you’re entered for a chance to win. A random winner will be selected in the next five days and I will message them for address details to send over the ball. Cheers!)


Argentina, World Cup

A Messi conclusion

Javier pic for blogArgentina had a very strong first half today, and this was very much due to the fact that Javier Mascherano has been employed in his natural defensive midfield position. Today vs the Netherlands he disrupted many of their attacks, preventing them from playing their fierce counter-attacking football and took Arjen Robben out of his element (also making a last ditch tackle that prevented him from scoring in the last five minutes). Furthermore, Wesley Sneijder had tracked back quite a bit to help defend against Messi runs, assisting the not so fully fit Nigel de Jong in his defensive duties at midfield.

That said, here was the theme throughout the entire match: Argentina could not take advantage of the Dutch’s inability to attack – and anyone could tell that they truly missed Di Maria’s pace which surely would have haunted the slower Dutch defenders like winger turned wingback Dirk Kuyt. Lavezzi played well, but he is not as great of a dribbler as Di Maria, and neither is Gonzalo Higuain. Tactically it would have made more sense for Messi to start at the right wing to let Higuain work at center striker as he does for Napoli. Or, alternatively, let Messi play a free role from the midfield (like Neymar does at times for Brazil), or similarly to how Di Maria has been employed by Argentina (and Real) so that they could at least have some ability to create chances from the midfield.

Later in the match it was interesting that Alejandro Sabella took off Higuain to put in Aguero, especially considering Wesley pic for blogthat Gonzalo had seemingly found his stride as the game went on – and also because Aguero’s fitness has not always been at 100%.  That move clearly suggested that Sabella and Argentina were content to play conservatively and believed that their attack could get it done in extra time or in the last ten minutes (or in penalties).

Sabella pic for blogThis was the safe move, and it really shouldn’t be criticized, and despite all the reports that he isn’t an adequate coach (and that Messi coaches them), he should ultimately be praised for getting Argentina as far as he has in this World Cup. When he subbed Maxi Rodriguez for Lavezzi, I thought it was a great move – Maxi plays with exceptional energy which is exactly what teams need in extra time. And fortunately for him, he powered a penalty kick in after 120 minutes.

Throughout the match, I eagerly anticipated a moment of brilliance from either Robben or Messi, but both teams understandably played without taking risks, and in doing so went against Nike’s slogan to “risk everything” and this lead to penalty kicks (soccer’s ultimate fallacy). Ultimately though, I believe that this is one of the most exciting World Cup finals in a very long time as it will decide whether or not Messi can take the title of “best player of all time.”


Argentina, World Cup

The Messi-ah has arrived

Messi Argentina pic for blogYou might disagree, but I think this is Messi’s World Cup to take… his biggest competitor for the title of ‘Best player on earth’ Cristiano Ronaldo has been eliminated, the Spanish stars that have dominated on both a club and international level for the past decade are out, and Italy is no longer a worry for him – and while there are many other great teams (Brazil, Germany, Netherlands) with many great stars (Neymar, Müller, Robben), I still think that this is Messi’s stage more so than anyone else’s.

As you might know, Messi didn’t have the best campaign with Barcelona this past year and didn’t win any medals on the club level with them.  So, the World Cup is his time to not only make up for the bad year that he’s had at Barca, but also play well enough to prove that he’s worthy of praise on the world stage similar to that that he’s gotten on club level. Furthermore, it’s his chance to shut up all the critics that refuse to acknowledge his brilliance until he wins a World Cup (or at least lead Argentina deep into the tournament).

Although Argentina were drawn into relatively easy competition in the group stage, they still managed to win all three of their games in a World Cup that proven that each and every team is a force to be reckoned with – Brazil struggled with Chile, Germany struggled with Algeria – and today Argentina struggled against Switzerland as the game went to extra time.

Di Maria Argentina pic for blogThat said, this game’s result had huge implications on Leo Messi because there can really be no excuses for Argentina’s talent/performance – they’re stacked on offense and many of their players have had wild success on the club level this year. Di Maria won the Champions league with Real Madrid, Lavezzi won the French league at PSG – and they’re both players that are used to supporting bigger stars (Ronaldo, Ibra), so you’d imagine that their experience would translate well in that they’d support Messi as well as they do the superstars they play with on club level…

But, as we know, despite such great offensive talent surrounding him, Messi has had Lavezzi Argentina pic for blogto take control in all three of Argentina’s group matches – he single handedly beat Iran, and had an incredible game against Nigeria to secure the three points. He also scored a crucial goal against Bosnia and Herzegovina….

Fast forward to today… Rather than be the hero, Messi dropped the ball off to Di Maria for a curling shot that won the game. Messi’s making all the right decisions in this World Cup, and their progress in this competition shows it. Furthermore, he’s stepping up when it counts most – and that’s the true mark of a superstar and leader.