Monday, July 12, 2010

Who "Won" the World Cup?


Soccer and Germany really aren't two things people associate with each other, but Germany has arguably the most storied World Cup of any country in the world, including Brazil (Brazil has won two more Cups than Germany, but the Mannschaft has been to two more semifinals). This year the Germans yet again finished in the top three, but they did so with a young, stylish and incredibly diverse team. Here's Tunku Varadarajan:
I love this German team, which is sinuous and brilliant and fluid and youthful. Deutschland uber alles has morphed into Deutchland-including-alles: Özil is from Turkey, Klose and Podolski are from Poland, Cacau (they call him Hans, of course) from Brazil, Boateng is half-Ghanaian. But fear not, they still have men in their midst called Bastian Schweinsteiger, a central casting Teuton name that would, in previous years, have provoked titters and sniggers, but now passes unnoticed by fans who care only about his bustling, cerebral, muscular brand of German football-engineering. What’s more—and what is most refreshing in this Man’s Game played by so many cheating wusses—the Germans don’t dive or whine or cup their hands before their faces in aggressive supplication each time referee calls a foul on them. They are clean, unclouded spirits, with a simple, refreshing narrative of playing and scoring, of winning without adornment, but with an abundance of style.
They were a blast to watch this tournament, scoring four goals three times in what seemed like an otherwise low-scoring World Cup, and causing more than a few people to ask themselves if there was a German word for joie de vivre was (Freude zu leben, perhaps? It's not a sentiment typically associated with the German people). It looked like a fast break Benetton ad.

The team was nothing short of an international phenomenon.

The sideshow to this year's World Cup was to showcase South Africa's move beyond it's apartheid past, which was the perfect backdrop for a ethnically diverse squad to represent a country ounce dominated by the Aryan ideal. Israelis were enthusiastically and unapologetically sheering for this team. That's no small thing.

Even Paul the Octopus seemed to have a hand in helping the country shed the ghosts of its past. Obviously the story of a prognosticating cephalopod is endearing in and of itself, but its particularly poignant considering that cartoon octopuses (like this one) were used as antisemitic signafiers prior to WWII.

Obviously, not all is as it seems, but the German squad did an amazing job of representing an ideal in a way that perhaps only sports can and will likely be a crowd favorite in 2014. That's something that even soccer-haters can appreciate.

Here's an incredibly catchy ode to Paul the Octopus:

More Winners
  • The United States:
Landon Donavan's goal will justly be celebrated for years to come. Just watch some of these reactions and tell me with a straight face there isn't a market for big time international soccer in America. The game against Ghana drew almost 20 million TV viewers (much more than the LOST finale, for example). There was talk on ESPN about the goal doing wonders for the US bid to host the 2018 and/or 2022 World Cup.
  • Japan:
Man, was this team fun to watch. I don't think there was a team at the World Cup that seemed to be having more fun than Japan and it was infectious.
  • South American Countries Not Named Brazil or Argentina:
Paraguay and Chile both advanced to the knockout round, while Uruguay recaptured its glory of yore.
  • South Africa:
There was a lot riding on the World Cup in South Africa and, at first, it did not look like the country was going to pull it off. There were ticket distribution issues, security guard strikes and the vuvuzelas -- but the organizers were persistent, worked out the kinks and pushed through the problems to host a memorable event.

Epic Losers:
  • France:
What a meltdown! I mean, that was nothing short of legendary dysfunction of the variety of which only the French are capable. I guess if you're going to crash and burn you might as well do it with elan and panache ...
  • England:
There's little doubt that poor Robert Green will be blamed for England's showing until the end of time, but his teammates never really did much to demonstrate that they were any better than Green's now infamous error.
  • Nike:

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