El World Cup Diario, Day 32: The end of the world (cup)

We've reached the end, ladies and gents. Nick Harper reflects...

So that's that, the best team just about won. Well done to the Germans, who deserved their fourth gold star last night and can now look forward to dominating world football for years to come. (Maniacal laugh, maniacal laugh).

Frankly, the moment David Hasselhoff threw his weight behind Die Mannschaft on Day 32 it was in the bag. Any man who can make the Berlin Wall crumble through the power of soft-rock can will a nation to victory.

However, as fitting as Germany's victory was, now is not the time to be blowing any more smoke their way. The World Cup is over, as you may have heard, so now is a time to take stock, assess what we've all just witnessed and answer the one burning question that remains: Was it really the best World Cup ever, as some suggest? Only now it's done can we answer this one.

And the answer is: Yes! Absolutely it was, but only if you aren't old enough to remember 1998 or anything before then, and only if you erase most of the second half of the tournament. Because as Sven-Goran Eriksson might say: First half good, second half not quite so sexy.

Many will point to the fact that with 171 goals, Brazil 2014 goes down as the joint most scoringest World Cup in World Cup history. They might also suggest that as goals are the reason we watch football in the first place, this is conclusive proof that it was indeed the greatest World Cup ever.

But they would be wrong.

Anyone old enough to recall France 98 will tell you that the best tournaments maintain their momentum throughout, then build to a dramatic denouement. That was the other joint most scoringest World Cup in World Cup history and lest we forget that it ended with the original Ronaldo being pronounced dead on the morning of the final to being passed fit by kick-off, which was some going and some drama.

So Brazil 2014 is no France 98. It might not even be above Mexico 70 or España 82, two finals highly regarded by people who like to rank tournaments. El Diario wasn't born for the first so can't comment, and was too busy playing with toy cars to remember the second, so we also can't pass judgement. But what we can say with great certainty is that while Brazil 2014 might not have been truly truly great, it's still been pretty damn good.

Has it been $11 billion good? The $11 billion it apparently cost to host these finals – the $11 billion that won't now be spent on hospitals and schools and all that boring stuff? Hmm, that's tricky. See, on the one hand Brazil is now bankrupt and ruined for decades to come, but come on, it's 171 goals! One-hundred-and-seventy-one!! And many of them were absolute belters. So sod the hospitals, it probably was.

What seemed to impress most people about Brazil – the tournament rather than the idiot team – was the crazy, gung-ho attitude almost every team seemed to adopt during the group stages. After the defensive hell of South Africa 2010, almost every team came pre-programmed to attack. (With the sole exception of Fabio Capello's Russia, who were even more heinous than Capello's England. Maybe it wasn't us, after all.)

And a big hat tip to FIFA where it's due here, because by instructing referees to ignore almost every kind of foul, they encouraged the free-flowing football we didn't see in 2010. Holland vs Spain, Holland vs Australia, USA vs Portugal, Germany vs Ghana – every one a classic.

Now obviously taking this blind-eyed approach to infringements had serious repercussions for the poor hosts later on in the tournament, but was an almost paralysed Neymar a price worth paying for a better class of football? We'd say yes, but then it's not our banjaxed back.

For a while El Diario worried England's sad but predictable early exit might somehow diminish the tournament. But it didn't. If anything, sending that sorry shower home on the first available flight allowed us to admire how exhilarating football can be when played by teams who actually know what they're doing. Costa Rica, Algeria, Chile and Colombia all more than compensated for the loss of the team that won a World Cup before any of us were born, confirming history only means anything if you're stuck in the past. Or something.

Sadly though, despite the undoubted highs, this was a tournament of diminishing returns. The furious frenzy of goals in the group stages gave way to a more cynical brand of football in the knockout stages – understandably as the stakes increased.

There were still a few juicy spikes along the way – Germany vs Algeria, Belgium vs USA, the last bits of Holland vs Costa Rica and Brazil's  humping at the hands and feet of Germany. But by and large, it was a rum bag – any tournament where pale imitations of Argentina and Brazil feature in the final four probably can't be called the greatest of all time. Still, let's at least be grateful the tournament got the winners it just about deserved.

Annoyingly, the fact it's now all over means every day is a Rest Day for the foreseeable. Still, it's not all bad news because the countdown to the next World Cup can now officially begin. So, it's 1,426 days and counting, and it'll be here in next to no time.

El Diario's 10 Most Memorable Moments

1. Fred's Dead, Baby

Fred wasn't actually dead. The lumbering Brazilian striker had just fallen down like a man shot through the heart with no defender around him, winning the penalty that effectively did for Croatia and set the hosts off to a winning start. That opening game set the tone for what followed – two teams going for each other's throats in a game Brazil were not allowed to not win. The policy would take them far.

2. RVP Goes Horizontal

Moments after Spain should have taken a probably unassailable 2-0 lead, Daley Blind launched a mammoth pass down towards Robin van Persie, through on goal with only Iker Casillas to beat. Trouble was, Van Persie had to unfurl every last millimetre of his frame to head up and over Iker Casillas for a goal of the tournament contender. 1-1 soon became 5-1 and the rest is World Cup history.

3. Who Treats The Physio?

England physio Gary Lewin diddled his ankle while celebrating England's goal against Italy. Had he known what was to follow, he really wouldn't have bothered, unless it was all just a ruse to get home early.

4. The Golden Member

The quote of the tournament came from Arjen Robben, when asked the secret of Louis van Gaal's success in masterminding a 2-0 win over Chile. "Maybe Louis does have a golden willy," was Robben's reply, which makes little sense but sounds remarkable.

5. Losing Their Heads

By scrapping fouls, FIFA did all they could to encourage teams to attack each other. Cameroon's Benoit Assou-Ekotto misread the memo and instead attacked his team-mate Benjamin Moukandjo, sticking the nut on him at the end of the 4-0 defeat to Croatia. Down with this kind of thing.

6. The Magnificent Miguel Herrera

A sweaty revelation with his touchline truffle shuffles, Mexico's fun-sized manager was the lowest-paid coach in these finals but its highest value goal celebrator. And had Robben not cheated him out of the World Cup, we'd no doubt have seen him expose his pendulous breasts at some stage.

7. Show Them The Money

Just days after Ghana's president sent £1.76 million in a suitcase on a plane to as good as bribe his nation's players to fulfil their World Cup fixtures, Sulley Muntari and Kevin-Prince Boateng dragged the nation's name further into the gutter by abusing the coach and breaking his MacBook. The pair were sent home in disgrace.

8. Jaws III

So much pointless guff was spoken about the Uruguayan liability in the wake of his incident, but El Diario's abiding memory of the whole sorry tale was of the tattoo one punter had done to commemorate bite number III. 'Saurez was ere', it read, beside a set of teeth marks. Ignoring the obvious question of why, how hard can it be to get six letters in the right order?

9. 52 (FIFTY-TWO!!)

The game of the tournament, edging out the Brazil-Germany semi for the simple fact this was a two-sided contest. The average number of shots on goal during the tournament was 26.5 ahead of the final. Belgium and USA shared 52, 35 of them on target and 17 off. Most came from Belgium, who squeaked through 2-1.

10. The Massive Mascot

Oh the visual Lolz when FIFA paired 5ft 6in midfielder Mathieu Valbuena with their tallest mascot, a strapping young lad who obscured the Frenchman's view before the Germany game. Joyless suits they say. Evidently not.

El World Cup Diaro in full


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