Pressing Issues: Usual suspects prevail once more at World Cup

2014-07-13 15:00

In his thriller The Way the Cookie Crumbles, James Hadley Chase relates how a well-laid plan to stage a daylight bank robbery that took Ticky Edris years to put into place went horrible awry.

This is exactly what happened to Brazil on Tuesday evening.

It took master tactician Luiz Felipe Scolari and a few Brazilian football greyheads, including the suave Carlos Alberto Parreira, a few years to build what they thought was a foolproof team to win their country a sixth world title.

But it took Germany just 90 minutes to blow that plan to smithereens and send it up in smoke, wiping the smug looks off 200 million Brazilian faces.

Some will argue it took just 28 minutes. But that is neither here nor there. The fact remains that Brazil were disembowelled on the night.

Many people have asked what went wrong, although German followers would prefer to dwell on what went right. It’s just the story of the half-full/half-empty glass.

But what Germany and Argentina’s victories in the semifinals mean is there will be no new country name engraved on to the World Cup trophy.

It also means the Netherlands continues, in the eyes of many, to be the best team never to win the title.

They came very close in 1974 when they introduced the world to the “total football” style.

In 2010, on these shores, they were just a shot away when Arjen Robben broke through only to be thwarted by Spain goalkeeper Iker Casillas in the dying minutes of the final, only for Spain’s Andrés Iniesta to pop up with the winner during extra time.

They say lightning doesn’t strike twice in the same place, but it was Robben once more who was just a Javier Mascherano stud away from clinching the winner on Wednesday night in added time before Argentina clinched the match on penalties.

This has given Germany (three titles) and Argentina (two titles) a chance to add to their respective Cup triumphs.

Germany has a chance to close in on Italy, who have four titles, while a win by Argentina will see them catching up with the Mannschaft.

A win for Germany will also break European teams’ duck of not winning the tournament when played in South America.

An Argentina win will ensure the status quo of South American countries winning the World Cup whenever it’s played on that continent is maintained.

While there is a gradual shift in power, the usual suspects always seem to prevail.

That England, Italy and defending champions Spain were all bundled out in the group stage is proof the power has shifted.

But is the improvement of other nations enough to completely remove Brazil, Germany and Argentina from the pedestal? Methinks not so, just yet.

Just as after every World Cup, nations will go home and rethink their strategies for the next tournament.

Today’s final also means that in the 20 World Cup finals that have been staged so far, at which at least 77 nations have made a single appearance, only eight have won it between them, merely taking turns as winners between them.

For Brazil, which has won in Europe and Asia, it is back to the proverbial drawing board.

Just as Chase’s character Edris didn’t take different personalities into account, Scolari and company, whose plan seemed to be on course until Germany came along, maybe didn’t count on the personalities of the very people most vital to their plan.

They underestimated the calibre of their opponents as well as the replacements for unforeseen injuries to key personnel.

As jokes keep on rolling in since Tuesday evening’s disaster, because it’s Sunday today, we’ll quote the one that goes: “Today we read from the Book of Germany, chapter 7, verse 1 which reads: “And Brazil wept and refused to be comforted. Amen!”

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