The 2014 World Cup came to a close today with Germany beating Argentina 1-0 after extra time. The final was fairly exciting despite the scoreline with each team having a number of good chances go untaken. It was the same score as the 2010 final, but a much better match. Although the match today was very even (I am glad a goal was scored, but this was the rare match that actually deserved to go to penalties–neither team deserved to lose), Germany deserved to win the tournament overall. They were the most consistent, best team throughout the tournament.
Germany’s win today also legitimizes their 7-1 thrashing of Brazil in the semifinal. Had the Germans lost, that game would have been viewed as a bizarre curio, but with their taking of the trophy the Brazil result is legitimized as a truly significant one (as an illustration of what I mean, compare Holland’s 5-1 victory over Spain: impressive, but not nearly as significant as it first seemed a month ago). It is probably the most incredible sports result ever, bar none. The Germans became the first European side to ever win the World Cup in the Americas, and they beat South America’s two traditional heavyweights to do so.
Overall, this was an excellent World Cup. It had lots of drama and surprise results, lots of goals, and some top-notch individual performances. I disagree with Lionel Messi winning the Golden Ball as most valuable player (I would have given it to Colombia’s James Rodriguez), but there is no way Argentina would have made it nearly as far without him. He will have one more legitimate shot to win the tournament in 2018 and thus place himself in the argument for “best player ever.” I can’t wait!