With the World Cup Final in the offing, the party is all but over in Brazil. Sadly, it ended on a sour note for the host country (the third-place match will mean little) and a few other proud footballing nations.
There have been thrilling matches, majestic goals and more than a few moments of madness. A total of 32 nations gave it their all (well 31, sorry, Cameroon fans)—and then there were two.
There's always a bittersweet lull in the last days of the World Cup. After the hysteria of the group stages and the thrill of the early knockout rounds, the reality starts to settle in.
Football fans the world over will have to wait four years to have another summer like this one.
But cry not my new Soccer Nation, there's plenty of meaningful matches in the interim. And there's always the memories (good and bad).
Here we have Team USA's one not-so-shining moment:
That pretty much sums up things for Team USA supporters, who did find their full voice in Brazil. The USMNT became the world's second-favorite team, for one month anyway.
"Suarez, why?" might be a refrain you'll hear from Italy supporters for years to come, even though Giorgio Chiellini's histrionics and the Azzurri's tepid performances in their last two matches were equally disgraceful.
While Mexico and the U.S. acquitted themselves well in the tournament, it was Costa Rica that turned out to be the class of CONCACAF, defeating Uruguay, Italy and Greece before bowing out to the Netherlands on penalties.
There's never a shortage of incident at the World Cup, but this edition had everything from high drama to the theater of the absurd.
We'd rather not rehash the Luis Suarez affair but "bitegate" draws some correlation to the Zidane-Materazzi incident of 2006.
Though the Zidane headbutt was in the final, the Suarez-Chiellini dust-up mirrors that lunacy. Seems the Italians are always in the thick of it.
The world's game was received by record numbers in the USA this time around, but the jury is still out regarding the staying power of the fascination. Perhaps MLS will see an uptick in interest after the Cup concludes.
While soccer-haters in America seemed to have been silenced just a bit this summer, there are still plenty of people who sponsor this attitude:
That's all the press fit for this sort, enough words have been wasted there.
Football is not for everyone, even die-hard football fans hate the sport at times (apologies to our English friends; you might have invented the game, but you've surely been rubbish at the World Cup since 1966. OK, we'll give you 1990).
To go along with the preponderance of melodrama, goals were also in abundance. The record for goals at a tournament, as per FIFA, is 171 in 1998. We're at 167 with two matches left to be played including the dreaded third-place game.
Germany's unfathomable 7-1 win over Brazil in the semifinal isn't likely to be repeated in a few lifetimes. Looking ahead to the final it's hard to make an argument against them claiming the title.
This will be the third World Cup final between Germany and Argentina. In 1986, Diego Maradona and company defeated West Germany 3-2. The Germans avenged this loss with a 1-0 win over Argentina in the 1990 final.
Lionel Messi will have to do more versus Die Mannschaft than he did against Clockwork Orange if Argentina has any hope of lifting the cup for the third time.
The Germans will be looking for their fourth star and the bookmakers are making the Deutschlanders prohibitive favorites, as per OddsChecker.
We'll leave the tactics on this match to the experts, but on form alone, Germany could be runout winners. A 2-1 win for Germany seems like the way to go, but say what you want about Argentina's rather boring style, La Albiceleste have grinded out results.
If Messi goes all Messi and his supporting cast (namely Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Javier Mascherano) perform up to snuff, this game should be tight. However, without injured running mate Angel Di Maria, Messi may have a hard time breaking the Germans down.
The Germans won't rest on their laurels but they may be a bit too chuffed heading into this one. The Germans' punishing style won't favor La Pulga's darting wizadry, but it's hard to count out a team that has won six straight Cup matches.
The Golden Boot may have already been decided, as oddsmakers, per Goal, are touting Colombia's James Rodriguez (six goals) as the favorite. Thomas Mueller has a crack at it with five strikes and Messi is a dark horse with four.
While we've bashed the third-place match, Brazil will be keen to win it, even more so than Germany in 2006. Anything to remove the sting of the touchdown Germany hung on them.
It's been a memorable month, enjoy the last of it lads and lasses. 2018 here we come.
Third-Place Match: Brazil 3, The Netherlands 2
The Brazilians remember they are actually really good at this sport.
Golden Boot: Tie, Thomas Mueller, James Rodriguez, six goals
Mueller will grab one more against the Argentines.
Total Goals Scored: 175
A new record, huzzah.
Final: Germany 2, Argentina 1
You already know.
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