Three things we learned as Germany win World Cup, outlast Argentina

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Following Germany’s 1-0 extra time win over Argentina at the Maracana Stadium on Sunday, there were tense moments galore as two giants of soccer clashed in Rio de Janeiro.

The Germans prevailed and claimed their fourth World Cup title after Mario Gotze’s moment of individual brilliance sealed the trophy for Das Mannschaft.

[ RELATED: Germany 1-0 Argentina ]

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[ REALTED: Gotze fact file

In what proved to be an intriguing tactical battle between two nations with contrasting styles, we learned an awful lot about Germany and Argentina as the 2014 World Cup came to a close.

Here are three things we learned from the final, as Germany became the new World Cup champions.

Higuain, Messi, fluff their lines

In the first half, Higuain could have put Argentina 2-0 up as the Albiceleste came racing out of the traps. However, the man who clinically fired Argentina past Belgium in the quarterfinals and has been so clutch for club and country in the past fluffed his lines. Massively. First of all he was let in over the top but shanked an effort wide after five minutes, then in the 22nd minute he put another effort wide after Toni Kroos’ poor header played him in. It just wasn’t Higuain’s day as he was taken out by Manuel Neuer in the second half, and somehow a free kick was given against him. Then he was substituted. Lionel Messi, despite winning the Golden Ball award for the best player of the tournament, failed to score a single goal in the knockout stages of the World Cup and once again vanished in the final for large swathes. Messi’s big chance arrived just after the break as Lucas Biglia played him in, but the Barcelona star dragged his effort wide of the far post. Apart from a few darting runs and curling efforts from distance, Messi wandered around in the middle and looked extremely lethargic in the closing stages. He had a free kick in the dying seconds which he ballooned over the bar, then looked at the turf in disbelief as the Argentine captain winced painfully. When Argentina needed him most, Messi couldn’t come up with the goods.

source: AP
Gotze was the hero as Germany, well, win. Any shock there?

Defense dominates, Mascherano shines

Throughout the entire knockout stages Argentina failed to concede a goal in regulation. Alejandro Sabella’s side went 426 minutes without conceding  before Gotze struck the game-winner in extra time. Much had been made of the “fantastic four” up top for Argentina (Messi, Higuain, Di Maria, Aguero) but central defenders Martin Demichelis and Ezeqieul Garay were outstanding. Especially in the final. At times Argentine’s defensive unit look impenetrable but Gotze’s moment of magic was worthy of winning any game. Biglia and Javier Mascherano sat in front of the back four expertly and stereotypically snapped away at Germany’s midfield. Mascherano was simply wonderful. His timely interceptions stopped Germany’s flow time and time again and the amount of challenges he snapped into was essential in the engine room. He cajoled his side into action and was the lynchpin of Argentina’s defensive display. As for Germany, Manuel Neuer won the Golden Glove award as he kept four clean sheets and only conceded four goals in seven games throughout the entire tournament. The experience of defenders Philipp Lahm, Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels proved the difference as Germany shut the Argentine’s out in the final. It was a tense, tight and gripping 1-0 win that made the world sit up and appreciate top-notch defending. We’ve seen plenty of tough games where two teams fought to the death in this tournament. The best was saved until last.

“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

In England a saying has developed about Germany, with former England international and NBC’s Premier League Analyst Gary Lineker famous for these words.

“Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

Throughout this tournament Germany has found a way to dig deep and get past stubborn outfits like Algeria, France and then Argentina. They also possess the talent to hammer hosts Brazil and were worthy winners of the 2014 World Cup. They were the top scorers, with 18, and the best team. Germany won it with a moment of magic which deserved to win any final. Gotze’s goal was a golden moment.

His strike ensured Germany’s “Golden Generation” struck gold for the first time since 1990. In the end, as it always seems to shake out, the Germans win.

“I’m not a bad guy” – Convicted murderer, new club defend signing

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A week ago, we brought you the story of goalkeeper Bruno Fernandes finding a new club despite a conviction for ordering the torture and murder of his mistress, whose body was then fed to dogs. The two were having a disagreement on child support.

Fernandes, 32, was set free from jail on a technicality and has since been signed by Boa Esporte in Brazil. He said he couldn’t “throw in the towel” on his career because he believed in himself.

Fans were outraged with the team, major sponsors pulled their funding, and an activist group even hacked Boa Esporte’s web page.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

And the club is digging in its heels.

Boa Esporte’s president, Rone Moraes da Costa, reacted to protests by saying he’d rather move the team than not give Fernandes a chance to resurrect his career.

As for Fernandes, he clearly is having trouble explaining why he’s getting another chance. From The Guardian:

“What happened, happened. I made a mistake, a serious one, but mistakes happens in life – I’m not a bad guy. People tried to bury my dream because of one mistake, but I asked God for forgiveness, so I’m carrying on with my career, dude. I’m starting over.”

One mistake. Wow. There are few clubs in the world which fit the bill of being the majority of fans’ least favorite team, but Boa Esporte could get there. Surely there must be more to the story?

Nothing new about the challenges facing USMNT

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This next week may define a generation of USMNT players, but only if it goes poorly.

That may sound overly dramatic, but it isn’t. The United States started 0-2 in the final round of World Cup qualifying, earned its coach a firing, and now stares down its status in the confederation.

Honduras is coming on Friday, far from a pushover. Then it’s off to Panama for another tricky tie. In a vacuum, coming up short in one of the two isn’t the end of the world, but the Yanks will be expected to take a minimum four points. Even that would be a disappointment to many.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

The crutches are gone, aside from any being used by injured players back in Germany (Bobby Wood and Fabian Johnson chief amongst them). Fifteen of Honduras’ players play domestically, and Panama isn’t much better in overall quality.

Frankly, and it’s been written before, the United States should outclass both of these foes. If Bruce Arena’s bunch doesn’t, well, it spells woe for the country’s soccer development as a whole.

For now, supporters and players have been able to cling to the thought that Jurgen Klinsmann was responsible for the Yanks’ struggles. In some ways, he most certainly was to blame for setbacks like the CONCACAF Cup loss to Mexico and the pathetic performance against Costa Rica that earned him a firing.

Several of the United States’ current elder statesmen have built legacies that can survive big hits. Tim Howard and Clint Dempsey may go down in history as the two biggest stars in program history (There will be an argument for both as No. 1 along with Landon Donovan and Claudio Reyna). DaMarcus Beasley is an all-timer, too.

Michael Bradley, Geoff Cameron, and Jozy Altidore are on track for that, too, and there’s an argument to be made the trio is already there, especially for Cameron, who’s a mainstay in the Premier League. Each has found success in Europe after getting their starts in Major League Soccer, and have etched their names into the national record books.

There’s still very little reason to believe the USMNT will miss the 2018 World Cup even with the 0-2 start. The class is just too much to consider the Yanks will finish below Panama, Honduras, and Trinidad and Tobago over the course of 10 matches (The fourth place side gets a shot at an Asian side like Saudi Arabia, UAE, or Uzbekistan in a two-legged affair).

But turning it around has to start now. The Yanks have to handle their business in these qualifiers, and make at least the Gold Cup final to build momentum toward Russia. Anything short of that is abject failure.

Again, this absolutely should happen, starting Friday. Even given the poor start, losses or even a pair of draws this week would be legitimately shocking, and set the program back ages. Howard set it up well Tuesday when he pointed out that the U.S. has gotten to points like this before, and they always belly up to the bar and outlast all comers.

A lot of fans have this nagging voice in their heads, asking nefariously, “What if they don’t?”

Podolski after golazo finale: “This is like a great movie”

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Lukas Podolski has won a EURO, a World Cup, and the Bundesliga with two different sides.

Only Lothar Matthaus and Miroslav Klose have been capped more than Germany’s Polish born Podolski, and he received a hero’s send-off from the home crowd at Germany’s 1-0 win over England on Wednesday.

And of course he sent himself off in style with a gorgeous goal.

[ MORE: Guardiola close to adding $43m GK? ]

Podolski said there were more than 30,000 people from Cologne at the match, where he won one of his two Bundesliga titles.

“That’s when you know where you home is, and that you’ve done a lot of good, also off the pitch,” Podolski said. “That makes me very proud.”

It was a perfect night to say goodbye, and the goal made it almost surreal (Thomas Muller called it “cheesy”).

From Goal.com:

“This is like a great movie,” he told ARD. “We win 1-0 and I score the goal.

“I know I have a left foot that was probably gifted to me by God, or someone up there, and I can always rely on it. I am proud of these last 13 years.”

Feel good hit of the Spring.

Report: Guardiola close to adding $43m Benfica goalkeeper

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Year Two of the Pep Guardiola era at Manchester City could feature another big goalkeeper purchase.

Claudio Bravo hasn’t panned out in sky blue, and Joe Hart doesn’t look likely to be coming back. Wily Caballero is getting the lion’s share of the minutes right now, playing every minute aside from a trio of FA Cup matches since February.

[ MORE: Podolski scores screamer in German finale ]

$43 million is the fee noted by Abola when it comes to the latest target for Guardiola, a neck-tattooed Brazilian by the name of Ederson.

The Benfica backstop, 23, has 20 clean sheets in 32 appearances this season. He signed a new six-year deal in late January, but money may talk here.