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It is just a matter of technicality that Germany has won the football World Cup for the first time. In 1954, 1974 and 1990, it was West Germany that won the championship, though in 1990, in the flush of the impending reunification in October that year, the commentators were exuberantly saying, “It’s West Germany, or is it a united Germany already?” East Germany did not qualify except in 1974, when it, however, pulled off a miracle by defeating West Germany, which then went on to defeat the mighty Dutch of Johan Cruyff. This year too for the Germans, there was a minor blip of a 2-2 draw against Ghana after defeating the Portuguese 4-0. But one thing has been proved again, and it is that the Germans have all along been a great football-playing nation. The old great football-playing nations of South America are a little diminished. It is not a coincidence, therefore, that the cup has gone to Europe three times in a row.
The World Cup this year has been a stunner for its goal performances. In the league stage, tall scores were proving to be the undoing of strong teams such as Spain and Portugal. Goals were being scored by James Rodriguez, Luis Suárez, Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben, Thomas Müller and even Wayne Rooney, who, in the third World Cup, ended his goal-less record. The Germans’ tour de force came in the semifinal with their beating Brazil 7-1, easily the most unbelievable thing to have happened in World Cup history. The upshot of this has been that despite other teams having individual stalwarts, Germany’s success lay in the fact that it clicked as a team, reinforcing the truth that football is more about collectivity than, say, cricket, in which without individual brilliance a team can scarcely expect to come up trumps. German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s presence at the stadium cemented the team spirit, showing that when it comes to sport and country, the Europeans are not lagging behind the South Americans in any way. The memory of the Italian president coming out to dance on the roads after his country won the cup in 1982 is still vivid.
The delight of this World Cup has been that it hasn’t quite written the epitaph of any single footballer except those who are over the hill because of their age. Then again, Miroslav Klose, even at the age of 36, was able to become the top goal-scorer in World Cup history. Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were second-time icons this year. And in fact they came to the World Cup after having established their greatness in the club championships of Europe. This time we have stars, notably Rodriguez, who have achieved stardom at the highest echelons of the game, which has seen very clean football this time except on some stray occasions. This should be of some encouragement for the less fancied teams, particularly from Asia, whose challenge ended a bit early in this cup.