brazil-netherlands
germany-argentina

the last day

If I’m this tired after a month of watching the World Cup, I can only imagine how Lionel Messi feels.

Even for a seasoned sports fan, the World Cup can be a bit much if you let it overwhelm you. By “overwhelm”, I mean “trying to watch every match, even when two are going on at the same time, even when it’s the 3rd-place game that no one cares about”. A part of me is ready to return to reality.

But there is something comforting about just taking a month off. For one thing, you realize it is a privilege to be able to do it at all. Without the sweet tolerance of family and friends, it’s not easy, not even possible, to indulge in the World Cup, unless you are willing to cut yourself entirely from everything that isn’t the tournament.

Part of the comfort comes from being able to use the World Cup as an excuse. Once every four years, I put everything else aside, begging off of everything from family commitments to Saturday morning breakfasts at the Homemade Café. That ends with the final match. As well it should.

I’m not going to link to anyone … if you haven’t figured out by now where to go for tactical analysis and social commentary, one last batch of links won’t help. I very much liked the group phase, and while the matches in the knockout phase have not always edified, things were usually interesting, and the good feelings from the early weeks spilled over, so that I rarely fell into the grouchiness that has cursed past World Cups for me.

Germany has come together at the right time, they have great teamwork (which isn’t easy to pull off on national teams, which don’t spend a lot of time together), they have many wonderful players … they are favorites in every way, except perhaps for the historical view that says European teams don’t win in South America. But if host Brazil can lose successive matches to European teams by an aggregate score of 10-1, it might be time to put that historical view aside. I’ll be rooting for Argentina … it’s funny, you can often ascertain my rooting interest by simply looking to see which network I am watching. I’ll be with Univision, because I’m rooting for the Spanish-speaking team. I want Messi to have one last great match … he has had a very good tournament, despite what the naysayers believe, but he can shut them all up with a big performance in the final. But Messi is tired. I know it sounds like a lame excuse … the German players have to suffer through the ridiculous schedule of modern soccer, and they still seem fresh. Still, if Messi seems a bit sluggish, remember that he played 46 games for Barcelona last season, that he has made nine appearances for Argentina in 2014 alone, that he played for 120 minutes just four days ago. Not an excuse, just a statement of fact.

I hope for Argentina to win 2-1 in regular time, I think they’ll be lucky to be even with the Germans after regulation, think the Germans will win if it goes extra time, although if it goes to penalties, all bets are off. I think Germany will win in 90 minutes, maybe 3-1. And while I’m rooting for Argentina, I’ll be almost as happy if Germany wins in style. As usual, I’m just hoping for a good match.

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