Play by play

FT: Germany 1-0 Argentina. A European nation has won the World Cup in the Americas! Germany breaks the centuries-old curse of a Ghanaian witch doctor and defeats Generalissimo Leonard Messi in extra time. It was controversial. It was dramatic. Tempers flared. FIFA officials conspired. Maybe. One team rejoices. One cries. It’s everything we’ve come to expect from a meaningful soccer match, and most are. Argentines will feel aggrieved and they should. Germany won’t care one bit and they probably shouldn’t. Soccer isn’t just about goosebumps and emotion and music; it’s about opportunity. Whether it’s unjustly gifted or earned, it doesn’t matter because results stand and the best can usually find a way, even if they’ve been screwed. To be clear, when I say words like “unjust” or “screwed” it’s entirely subjective.  What would’ve happened if one or both of the red card fouls had been called? We’ll never know. Argentina still had chances. Higuain should’ve scored. Messi should’ve scored. Palacio should’ve had his rat-tail torn from his head, he was so bad. Germany, on the other hand, wasn’t the dominant team we saw against Brazil. They were good. But when it mattered, and when they were still even-strength with minutes to go, when Demichelis left his man, when a perfect cross found its way to Nuevo Super Mario Goetze, he rose to the occasion and completed what was a complete World Cup for the Germans. They were the best over the course of these 31 days. That doesn’t always translate into a trophy, but it did this time. As someone who’s lived in Germany and loves what German football, both domestically and internationally, has become, I say CONGRATS, WELTMEISTER!!! Thanks to all of you who tuned in over this amazing month. Keep in touch.

Messi is fouled 25 yards out! Schweinsteiger, who’s on a yellow, is lucky to be on. Not that a red card would matter. It’s all set up for Messi to beat the best goalkeeper in the world to send this to penalties…

Desperate moments for Argentina. So desperate that Leonard Messi tried to head the ball in from the top of the box. Just over. Manny Neuer, who is possibly 8-feet tall, had it covered anyway.


Call it off!!! North Korea has already won the World Cup!!!

Argentina is looking ragged. There isn’t much in the way of offense. The tackles, well, are getting increasingly reckless. Case in point. 

We’ve reached the halfway point of extra time. Penalties beckon. Argentina can’t get anything going up front and two of their three attacking players came on as substitutes.

We’re beginning to see some sloppy play. It’s a shame we’re all too stressed out to laugh. Manuel Neuer makes his first real appearance outside the box. 

Mascherano goes in awkwardly on Schweinsteiger. Masch needs to be careful. He’s on a yellow card already. Almost to the end of the first half of extra time…


I’m exhausted from the first five minutes. The players need a break, too. Play settles. Meanwhile…

I haven’t had goosebumps all match. I’ve had almost-goosebumps several times…AND JUST LIKE THAT…SAVE BY ROMERO!!! SCHUERRLE GETS A BEAUTIFUL PASS AND STRIKES FROM CLOSE RANGE, BUT RIGHT AT ROMERO!!! Right off that Argentina counters and would’ve been through, but Jerome Boateng made a Boatengtastic tackle. Wow…I hope you’re back from the fridge.


FT: Argentina- 0-0 Germany. I’m actually torn. Do I want this to stop? At some point, I will collapse into a heap of Doritos crumbs, empty Coke bottles, and a lone soccer ball. At some point, you’ll collapse as well. But how can we not savor another 30 minutes of Lionel Messi versus Die Mannschaft?

Three minutes of stoppage time…

Enzo off. Gago on. It’s the final minutes of regular time. I’m nervous. One mistake or moment of brilliance (remember, it’s about goosebumps) and it’s over.

Right on cue, Oezil provides a GORGEOUS ball in from the right wing to find a sprinting Tony Kroos. He shoots well wide. Put that action hero career move on ice.

How’s your blood pressure? Mine’s not good.

Gonzalo Higuain should’ve scored a goal and had a goal disallowed for offside. What could’ve been…he’s off for Palacio.

Messi almost has one of *those* moments, receiving a deflected pass on the right wing and slowly, methodically cutting into the center of the pitch. But he shoots wide.

The match is opening up ever so slightly. Both sides are playing like an internationally recognized title is at stake. It’s as if they know cameras are shooting footage and that people will talk about this for at least a few days.

Aguero is booked as well. The referee is quickly losing control.

Mascherano FINALLY looks like the Mascherano I know, coming in very late on a challenge. He’s booked, torn rear and all.

There is a narrative developing here. No, not the concussion narrative. The one where Argentina is denied two obvious red cards and a host of bad decisions, but prevails because of Lionel Messi’s genius. More on this later… 

UNBELIEVABLE!!! MANUEL, THE SWEEPERKEEPER, NEUER OBLITERATES HIGUAIN. It was so reckless that he should be off. Red card? No. Yellow card? No. How about foul on Higuain? Yup. #ConspiracyTalk

There’s something suspicious about the Germans. I know I’m not the first one to say that. I’m also talking about their more conservative demeanor in the opening minutes of the half. It’s like their tempting Argentina to push forward, lying in wait to pounce. 

A gorgeous through ball for Messi and he SHOOTS!!! An inch wide. Messi finishes that 9 times out of 10.

THE SECOND HALF BEGINS!!! An early chance for Argentina, but Higuain is offside. In other news, Aguero is on for Lavezzi.

Elvish. And because Messi is a sweetheart.

The world is full of hypocrisy, Fidel. But I choose to live in the present–mostly because the food is better.

There are loads of dignitaries in attendance. Let’s check in with…wait…who’s that? Sepp Blatter with German Chancellor Angela Merkel? #ConspiracyTalk

HT: Argentina 0-0 Germany. That, my friends, was an entertaining half of soccer. Given that this is a World Cup final, it was even more so. Finals tend to be conservative, nervy affairs with both teams reluctant to take risks–the kind of risks that makes fans rise from their dilapidated couches, spill beer, adopt religion, abandon religion, and question the meaning of life. This is not that. If you’re keeping track, we’ve already had (1) a controversial not-sending off; (2) a shot off the post; (3) a concussion; (4) a properly disallowed goal; and (5) a horrible miss. I have a feeling the best is yet to come.

HOEWEDES…WHO SHOULD NOT BE ON THE PITCH…HITS THE POST! Germany does well to earn a corner in stoppage time and the left-back rises to head powerfully off the post. The ref whistles for offside on the rebound. Argentina is lucky…and unlucky.

Messi creates a chance, cutting in from the right, but can’t find the angle. 

Romero makes an excellent save on Schuerrle. You know those moments right after a controversial moment of leniency–where the lucky team looks nearly certain to double-down on their luck? It felt like that, but Romero did well.

Hoewedes should be off. A horrible challenge on Zabaleta. He should be off. But this ref has a soft spot for horror movies, so…yellow it is.

Kramer comes off. He’s not well. Schuerrle comes on for him.

GOOOOOOOOO……NO GOAL!!!! An average pass from Messi–meaning an unbelievable pass for everyone else–finds Lavezzi on the wing. His cross is perfect and Higuain makes amends for his earlier miss…except he was two yards offside. FIFA should change the offside rule at halftime.

“WHAT DID I DO?!?!?” Bastian Schweinsteiger asks. Lavezzi makes another brave run, making himself the meat in between German buns, and gets taken down.

REWIND: Kramer gets his bell rung.

GONZALO HIGUAIN SCO….DOESN’T SCORE. And unthinkable header by Kroos falls to the otherwise offside Higuain. He’s alone inside the box and shoots well wide. 

Kramer, who started for the injured Khedira, gets blind-sided by Garay. “That’s illegal in hockey” was muttered in the war room. He stumbles and looks very obviously concussed. And…he’s back on the pitch.

Thirteen minutes in and no mention of Mascherano’s torn anus. Seriously, he tore it on that game-saving challenge on Arjen Robben. I tweaked my neck opening the peanut butter this morning, which should put Mascherano’s toughness into proper perspective.

Both sides have threatened. Argentina earns a corner, but Germany’s giants head clear. Their height advantage is striking, which means that Argentina’s low center of gravity advantage is equally so.

The first flash from Messi. Left-back Benedikt Hoewedes is the weak link in the German defense and Messi beats him…twice. Unfortunately, no one makes a near-post run and his cross is intercepted.

Counterattack from Argentina. Lavezzi steams up the wing and wins the ball back. A deflection falls to Higuain who shoots from a difficult angle and it’s out for a throw-in. It wasn’t *that* bad.


Chilly handshakes with awkward winks following less-than-spirited national anthems. THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT!

BREAKING NEWS: Sami Khedira has injured himself and will not start. Christoph Kramer of Borrusia Moenchengladbach (aka the “good” Moenchengladbach) fills in for him.

800,000,000 viewers worldwide. In the United States? More than the Bachelorette finale! #WatchOutChrisHarrison

Argentina also has never won a World Cup final wearing pink or purple, so I wouldn’t rush to judgment on the kit color thing.

It’s a new era in international football. *tips hat to world that says football, not soccer*. The greatest national team of all time couldn’t escape the group stage. Talking about this German squad in that same conversation is probably a bit too MJ/LeBron, but I’ll broach the topic before running away from it like a coward. What Germany did to Brazil…that was dirty. Brazil is good. They also had a lot of people in the crowd that wanted them to win. And they got annihilated…easily. Germany doesn’t have an elite star like Messi or Ronaldo, but they have unparalleled cohesion, strength, fitness, technical ability, beer purity laws…*sigh*

Which is why Germany is favored. 12 of ESPN’s 13 “experts” picked Die Mannschaft. Our war room is split. We’re also more sleep-deprived, so that could explain our greater confidence in Argentina. Khedira and Schweinsteiger will be tasked with ensuring Leonard Messi doesn’t turn into Lionel. Given, the Germans’ proficiency at stymying and destroying good teams (pours seven out for Brazil), I like their chances. If you have your bookie on speed-dial, you probably already know this. You probably also have marital problems. I can’t help you with those.

So do I. Even with Angel Di Maria, Argentina would prioritize organization over the risk of relentless attack. Without him, that becomes even more important. Rumors circulated that Slumdog Marillionaria might be fit enough to play, but that’s not the case. Alejandro Sabella starts Enzo Pérez. Guess who else isn’t starting? Kun Aguero. Can you imagine a better stage to settle the greatest-of-all-time argument than Generalissimo Leo Messi without Di Maria and Aguero?

“History will repeat itself with an Argentina-Germany rematch in the World Cup final. But will we get the thrills of 1986 or the grotesqueness of 1990?” Frank Dell’Apa predicts a “conservative, low-scoring” today at the Maracanã. 

Soccer is about music. Crescendos and melodies, hooks and harmonies, and composition.

Soccer is about emotion. Whether you’re a stoic, bottle-it-up type, or a firehose of tears, the World Cup is a collection of moments. The brilliant moments are often shouted from the highest mountaintop with bullhorns and amplifiers and confetti. But the most beautiful moment of this World Cup was quiet and brief. We were just lucky a camera was nearby and that no one interrupted. #Goosebumps

Soccer is about goosebumps. Whether you’re Argentine or German, neutral, hungover, or whatever, this is how we start the service at our Church.

Eleven hours ago, I found myself staring at a rocking-horse suspended from the ceiling. It didn’t have its frame or springs, but caught my eye through the noise. Terrible noise. Lights flashing. Shadows and glances. 30 days and 63 games later, it all felt strangely familiar. This Brazilian World Cup has knocked the soccer world off its axis–more so for those of us who’ve consumed it like the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest. Don’t listen to the easy slogans of beauty and fun and glory. It’s disorienting. Things that should be on the floor appear on the ceiling. Vision blurs. And noise–actual or digital–pushes your head underwater. Now, with my final breath, I will guide you through the world’s biggest, most important sporting event (Eat it, Super Bowl!). After…we dine! Welcome to the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro!