The World Cup delivered much more than a month of soccer. From the absurdity of Luis Suarez biting an opponent, again, to the glory of Mario Götze’s chest and volley to win the trophy for Germany, this tournament checked all the boxes. It was a World Cup filled with moments that felt destined to happen, and Götze’s goal was the prime example. Set up by André Schürrle, Götze’s goal allowed Germany to claim its first World Cup a unified country. It has to be more than mere coincidence that, when Götze and Schürrle first played for Germany in 2010, they became the first players born in reunified Germany to play for the reunified German national team.
The U.S. national team’s run to the Round of 16 also felt destined to happen. No one gave Jürgen Klinsmann’s men any hope of making it past Ghana, Portugal and Germany and out of the so-called Group of Death. Yet when captain Clint Dempsey scored just 30 second into the U.S.’s first game, it was clear that this team was something special. And it felt only right that all of America should finish work early to gather round screens and cheer on the U.S. in the Round of 16. And though the team eventually lost 2-1 and exited the tournament, we all watched in awe as Tim Howard set a World Cup record for most saves in a game. The performance secured Howard’s spot in both World Cup history and America’s national sporting consciousness. Decades from now, we’ll still be talking about Tim Howard’s game. And it’s those lasting memories, those freshly-formed legacies, that make us realize just how important the World Cup actually is.
Though the U.S. team’s spirited and determined play won the admiration of fans around the world, a world still shocked that a country that calls it soccer can be competitive at this level, the real surprise package was Costa Rica. Ignored by all and expected to be buried by previous World Cup winners Italy, England and Uruguay in Group D, Costa Rica and their impossible-to-beat offside trap* finished top of the group and went all the way to the World Cup quarter-finals.
Of course, not everyone leaves bathed in glory. Some will want to forget what happened. England lost their first two games and were knocked out barely a week into the tournament. Brazil suffered that humiliating 7-1 defeat to Germany in the semi-final, which will be remembered as a national sporting catastrophe for generations to come. And then there was the World Cup 2010 winners Spain. Expected to challenge once again, Spain lost their first game 5-1 and never recovered from their tailspin.
We witnessed the end of the Spanish dynasty this summer: the demise of one of the greatest national teams ever assembled. But we also witnessed the coronation of the new kings, or maybe the new kaisers, of international soccer. When that German team lifted the trophy, it may have marked the end of the World Cup, but it felt like only the beginning of a sustained period of success for this team. The countdown to the 2018 World Cup starts now, and Germany are the early favorites.
*a risky defensive strategy that required near-telepathic communication from defenders to succeed
Guest blog post contributed by Paste Magazine Soccer Editor and Total Soccer Show co-host, Daryl Grove.
Photo credit: Eve Edelheit, Staff Photographer for the Tampa Bay Times. http://eveedelheit.com/