El World Cup Diario, Day 31: The calm before the storm

Nick Harper gears up for the showpiece event at the Maracana...

I like these calm little moments before the storm. It reminds me of Beethoven. Can you hear it? It's like when you put your head to the grass and you can hear the growin' and you can hear the insects. Do you like Beethoven? Do you like Beethoven, readers? This isn't El Diario asking, it's just an old quote from an old film, cut and pasted as it sums up the mood on World Cup final morning.

We doubt the words of Norman Stansfield in Léon were written with the 2014 World Cup final in mind, given he was a homicidal narcotics agent and it was 20 years ago now, but they could easily have been.

This close in, we can practically hear the World Cup final now and there are indeed insects everywhere, but that's because we haven't had time to tidy up since these finals began.

Anyway, we digress. Let's start the countdown to tonight's World Cup final by running through what we know and where we are right now.

We should probably start with the actual final, which we're praying hard will be a fitting finale for a World Cup that has been frequently thrilling.

But here's some bad news: Arjen Robben says it won't be any kind of contest at all. "Germany's going to win the World Cup," he said yesterday. "No doubt about that. The Argentines will not stand a chance."

Two things here though. Who would trust a man who says he didn't dive for that penalty against Mexico? And as he spoke, he was munching on a large bag of sour-looking grapes, so take salt with those words.

"Argentina? Nah"

That said, it really doesn't look good for Argentina. Not only are they facing a rampant and refreshed Germany, but Argentina are very tired and their only real hope, Lionel Messi, can barely walk. Angel di Maria is also injured and only fit for the bench, Sergio Aguero is recovering from his own injury and influential attack dog Javier Mascherano strained his anus against Holland.

It doesn't look good for them and it doesn't sound good for us, the television viewers who deserve a frisky, free-flowing, end-to-end encounter. Listen to what that man Aguero said only yesterday.

"We know what happened to Brazil can happen again," is what he said. "So we have to do the same work we've been doing since the start of the World Cup – be very well balanced in defence, not allow the opposition any spaces and play our game – we're in the final for a reason."

That's the charitable view of the work they've done. A less charitable view would be to suggest they'll squeeze the very life out of tonight's game and pray for penalties, but hey, who really knows? Not El Diario, that's for sure, but you do just get a feeling, don't you?

The feeling that last night's Brazil-Holland (0-3) third-place, bronze medal play-off would be little more than a drab exhibition? Exactly that feeling, and that's what we got.

So the suspicion that the third Germany-Argentina final in World Cup history will be far more 1990 than 1986 is both troublesome and hard to shift. We live in hope but not expectation.

In other goings on...

Day 31 wasn't purely about the end games of this World Cup. There were other things afoot.

FIFA named its shortlist for the prestigious Golden Ball. Sadly, it's as predictable as you'd expect: Seven of the 10-strong list are appearing in tonight's final – Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos, Philipp Lahm, Mats Hummels, laughably Lionel Messi, Javier Mascherano and Angel di Maria. The numbers are made up by obviously Neymar, reluctantly Arjen Robben and justifiably Heem Rodriguez of Colombia.

An update on Day 30's Hot Crime News, and it turns out the British businessman wanted by Brazilian police over ticket touting allegations is not, after all, "a fugitive". That's what the police labelled Ray Whelan after he disappeared through the tradesman's exit of his luxury Rio hotel before they could apprehend him, but his company, Match, say "fugitive" is the wrong word.

However, the fact he's still missing when the police want to speak to him – and the fact we watched too much Colt Seavers as a kid – means El Diario is happy with fugitive. Innocent until proven guilty, of course.

Elsewhere, back home, and it's come to light why England's Prime Minister David Cameron didn't turn up in Brazil on the World Cup bandwagon ridden by most other world leaders. It wasn't because he had urgent policies to rubber stamp; he just didn't think it worth the effort for mere group stage games.

"I had been planning to travel to Brazil to support the England team, but they never made it to one of the threshold points like in the top 16 or a semi-final," he was quoted as saying. He thought that sorry shower might reach a semi-final? And he's running the country.

"Back so soon? I was just about to fly out"

Finally, and although it's not World Cup related as such, there are only now 34 days until the new Premier League season, so here's the latest on Yaya Toure's increasingly ham-fisted attempts to engineer a move back to Barcelona! Toure's agent has now claimed the only reason he wasn't voted any footballer of the biggest year awards is because he is black.

"If he was white, 100 per cent he would have won one of those top awards," said agent provocateur Dmitri Seluk, who we last heard from claiming that Manchester City had held his client captive while his brother lay dying, and before that moaning that they hadn't bought him a sports car for his birthday.

"I don't want to talk too much about racism or the politics of football," he added, failing. "But he does not get the praise he should get. Yaya has three times in a row won the African Player of the Year, but it is different with the other awards."

We know how this is supposed to end, of course, with Toure issuing the same press release Luis Suarez sent out, thanking the fans, realising his dream, destiny, fate etc and so on. He does know Barcelona are currently banned from signing any players so there's no hope of this grand plan ever coming off, doesn't he?

They what? Oh.

Anyway, enjoy these calm moments, readers, and pray we get the final we deserve.


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