Ever since I was a kid, I have faint memories of playing soccer during lunch time in elementary school. I don't really remember how well I played but I remember how we'll set up for a kick and have 2-3 other people try to make the other team guess who'll kick it. Basically, simple soccer tricks that teams have been using for ages that somehow made their way down to our age. Fast forward many years later and I remember playing it with people who were 5-10 years older than I was. I don't remember how rough the game was considering the age difference but I had above average strength and stamina for my age so I was able to keep up or at least had some good positioning because I even remember scoring some goals (3 goals in one game Oo;). A year or so later, I joined a small team and played indoor soccer (outdoor practice) for about half a season based on the recommendation of one of those guys (coach I believe). Though my soccer stint was for a short period of time, the competitiveness of it all is engraved in my mind.
I've also played in a day tournament once. I ended up having a good team of 4(or 5? likely 4 though) players. Though I've always played as forward since I've liked the concept of scoring goals, I was much stronger on defense because I was equivalent to super glue. In this tournament, I played as a goalie because I've had some experience before (can't remember where). My team also consisted of players who I was teammates with and who knew how to play in certain positions. I remember before the finals started thinking that at minimum, I'll walk out of there with something to show for the work we did and I was happy with that but a part of me didn't really just take it easy. I still wanted the final prize, that gold medal. After all, who cares for second place, right? You don't become a winner by being satisfied with second place mentality. You want to be the first, the best. It's the reason that we always see domination in different sports. Flash was dominant in BW because he didn't want to be second. Jaedong was the tyrant and best zerg because he didn't give a fuck who you were. He was going to win regardless how behind he was.
I remember the finals being quite intense. I recall having to make some saves and being up 4-2 at one point though we were facing a bad crisis. Due to some foul, we were going to be a man down for 2 minutes or so. Those 2 minutes were probably the most stressful moments of the whole tournament. Even if my teammates' skills were on par or exceeded the skills of our opponents, it became a numbers game. A simple mistake could lead to a goal allowing them to gain confidence and cause things to spiral out of control. Next thing you know, they'll be on the attack and we'll only be able to defend. Mentality is really important and can separate winners from losers. Regardless, we somehow managed to hang on until our teammate was back on without allowing them any goals to win the finals 4-2 taking first place. A sweet memory indeed and one that I won't really forget anytime soon but it's definitely colored my views on the game by quite a bit.
World Cup Memories:
Though I don't remember a lot from previous World Cups, I remember that I would cheer for Argentina. Why that was will always remain a mystery to me. I remember cheering for them against England in penalty shootouts back in some World Cup. Fast forward to World Cup 1998 and I was rooting for Brazil only for them to lose 3-0 to France. A crushing defeat for a Brazilian squad and a win that allowed France to join other World Cup winners. Fast forward again and it's 2006. France makes some headway with the brilliant play by Zidane and Henry etc... Portugal plays some great series though they have to settle for 4th place behind Germany. As for the finals, I vaguely remember watching them and it's time for penalties. But why, Zidane just headbutted an Italian because his family was insulted lol. He retires soon after the World Cup is over. Brilliant way to retire imo. All the merchandise sold out. I even remember a classmate wearing a shirt of the headbutt lol. 2010, listening to the radio at work to try to keep up with who is winning or advancing etc... though don't get to watch much. Did watch some of the final though and damn, it must've been hard breaking for the Netherlands back then. Throughout all this, I did feel bad for the Germans and wanted them to win second only to whoever else I was cheering for.
World Cup 2014:
2014, finally the World Cup is back. Can't believe how excited I got about it. Guess seeing the World Cup once every 4 years generate lots of excitement. Unlike previous times, I was planning to watch as much as I could especially once the knockout stages started. Group stages always had way too many games to watch especially when you consider that there's a lot of other stuff that goes on during a day so I elected to watch the most important games to me otherwise my life would revolve around work and soccer only (not that is necessarily bad lol). What made this World Cup great was all the great surprises as well as the TL discussions that went on during the games. Being able to cheer for your team when they score a goal or when the goalie makes a great save only added to the level of excitement and passions was born! :D
There were lots of games that I missed here but in general, I was really impressed with some of the South American countries. Chile beating Spain? Costa Rica beating Uruguay and Italy? Let's not forget Mexico tying Brazil though they aren't South American! All sounded insane to me. Maybe it's just my old mentality or not keeping up with the times but I've always seen countries like Spain, Italy, England, Brazil as the top countries along with others like Germany, Portugal, Netherlands, France, etc... It added another level of excitement especially since this was group stages and we have already had some major upsets when Italy, Spain, England and Portugal were eliminated. I doubt anyone forecasted these surprises.
Round of 16:
First game of interest was Brazil vs Chile. Watched what I could of this one. Chile played really well looked to be in a prime position to possibly upset Brazil and knock them out in RO16 though Brazil wouldn't have any of that. Brazil should be thanking the bar as well. Then Algeria vs Germany game eventually started. Was cheering for Algeria and the fact that they were counted out by most on TL yet only a few including myself knew that the possibility of being upset was there even if it was small made the game more intense. They managed to give the Germany their hardest fight imo taking the game to extra time where Germany got a goal at the 92th minute. If it wasn't for them getting sloppy by the 120th minute (they were exhausted though), they could've went into penalties. Still, their performance was quite commendable and their onyl goal at 120 minutes was spectacular. Germany could've been upset as early as RO16 as well despite them being huge favorites for this World Cup. TL's World Cup threads would've exploded after that!
Then cue Netherlands vs Mexico. It could go either way really. Mexico had some strong play and looked solid in their game. Netherlands had a diver named Robben which can get them penalties so Mexico had to be careful XD Regardless, seeing Mexico up 1-0 and the game is almost at 90 minutes felt like the best thing ever made then bam, a goal with 3 minutes left before injury time to tie it 1-1. Then of course, the penalty shot that was talked about and debated a lot. Was that a dive? Is that really a penalty? Man, how heartbreaking is that though. I'm a mere fan of underdogs but imagine being a Mexican watching them almost win a game to lose it within 6 minutes.
With that, Chile, Algeria and Mexico, three teams I was cheering for are gone. Maybe Costa Rica will at least make some headway. Well, they didn't happen to disappoint me. Their goalie made a nice save off Gekas with Umana sinking it in to give them a 5-3 win in penalties so at least there was some hope that there will be more upsets. Colombia was also playing really well and could be the dark horse of the World Cup. One thing was clear to me though. South American countries and Mexico have brought their A games and could potentially take games off the heavy hitters. Though it didn't happen this World Cup, there's a potential for big upsets in World Cup 2018.
I wasn't able to catch many games which was unfortunate since Brazil vs Colombia sounded like it was quite the match. I thought this goal in particular was great. Colombia being out was also disappointing since we won't be seeing anything like this from James Rodriguez. Voted the best goal of this World Cup by many fans and for good reason too. He displayed a lot of control with that shot. Germany and France's game sounded like it was quite the borefest apart from the lone goal so missing that wasn't too bad lol. Oh well, all hope in Costa Rica, right? Wrong. They got denied in penalties! One of the last teams that I was really supporting knocked out by the Dutch though in a way, this did work out well for another team (more on that later). With that, seemed like there will be no more upsets. Most of the remaining teams were on par with each other or close enough at least but boy was I mistaken.
Took the day off work to watch Brazil vs Germany. This game was anticipated to some degree though Brazil losing Neymar after he suffered a broken vertebrate in his game against Colombia definitely put a damper on what could've been. Still, everyone wanted to see just what Brazil would do. Was the team Neymar+11? Will they survive the Germans? Germany was on fire looking to try and finally win the World Cup after so many years of getting close so this was going to be intense. The end result was not what I or anyone expected. It was the most one sided thrashing and biggest upset in this World Cup by far. The game was so bad for Brazil that it tied with their biggest defeat in their history. When the game started, everything was looking good 10 minutes in. Brazil's game looked like it was on ball. Though Neymar was out, it looked like the team was able to compensate and were playing well for someone in their position.
In the blink of an eye, that all changed. Germany scored a goal early on. At that point, Brazil's weakness was revealed and they started to slowly crumble. The team that was playing solid a minute ago could not play anymore it seemed like. 12 more minutes and bam, another goal. After that, Brazil just couldn't recover. They were too broken mentally. Their resolve was shattered. Within 5 minutes, Germany scored another three goals. I would barely look away to see TL threads and Germany would put in another goal. This game was over and in a way it's a miracle that Germany only managed to score two more goals after that. The crowd was so disheartened by how bad their team was losing that many started to boo them while cheering on the Germans. Says something, doesn't it? Brazil's only saving face? A goal towards the end of game to tie this loss with their worst record loss from 1920s. Images of fans crying after the devastating loss spread like wildfire across the internet. As TL polls showed, Brazilian tears were apparently delicious:
Poll: Brazil tears are...
103 total votes
103 total votes
Your vote: Brazil tears are...
While the world's eye was on Brazil's humiliating loss, another team has quietly made their way to the semifinals. A team that many expected would've gotten knocked out earlier. That team was of course, the team I cheered for when I was younger, Argentina. Argentina relied on a very solid defense and strong counter attacks to score their goals. Messi was their go to player due to his immense capabilities and he hasn't failed them by that point. Scoring key goals in the group stages against Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia to help them escape in first place. In their next match against Switzerland, Messi assisted Di Maria on a goal scored towards the end of extra time to seal their win. With this, they advanced to face Belgium who they also dispatched by a 1-0 score due to a goal from Higuain very early on.
At this point, many considered Argentina's road to the semifinals as being rather easy. Compared to Germany who had to face Portugal, US and Ghana then beat Algeria and France in knockout stages or Netherlands who faced Chile, Spain, Australia then beat Mexico and Costa Rica in knockout stages, Argentina got through group stages against easier teams such as Nigeria, Iran and Bosnia. Their knockout round opponents of Switzerland and Belgium didn't compare as much to either Germany or Netherlands. To top things off, their games in the knockout stage were all 1-0 wins. They either seemed incapable of scoring more than one goal or they were satisfied with getting and holding a lead. Memes describing Germany as a team were already circulating around at this point, no doubt by German fans! Regardless of that, this was it! The end of the road for Argentina! Their defense was solid but the strong combination of Robben, Van Persie and Sneijder will tear it down. Though it won't be an easy game, many were on Netherlands' side for good reason. Netherlands was a powerhouse. Robben's play and control was very impressive and he was one hell of an athlete being able to continuously run and make plays. With his other comrades, they worked well together and were a big threat to Argentina.
As usual, Argentina brought their usual defensive game when considering Netherland's offensive capability. They generated chances when they could, had some good free kicks but couldn't score in the end because of shots like this. Netherland's strong offense couldn't break through either though they did have some good chances. The game ended up going into penalty shots in the end. Their goal keeper was solid blocking the first shot with Argentina going up 1-0 after Messi's goal. YES! Still, it's not over yet so I couldn't celebrate yet but the momentum was in Argentina's favour now. With each team then scoring a goal, it was Sneijder's time. DENIED!. With that, Argentina's lead widened and they looked poised to take it. Rodriguez ends up putting it away to close the game and seal Netherlands' fate. Argentina has advanced to the finals, a feat that they haven't been able to accomplish since 1990. They would face Germany in a highly anticipated game with many calling Germany the likely winner due to their play against Brazil.
The penalties were interesting for one reason, Argentina's goalie, Sergio Romero. He successfully stopped 2/4 shots to give them the win. Rumours were rampant that Romero studied the shooting style of Netherland's players during their penalty shootout with Costa Rica. Whether that's true or not is not known but it does provide further insight into how goalies prep for such situations and it's interesting to see it's impact. Suffice to say, Romero was a fucking boss and helped pave Argentina's way to the finals!
Before the final was to take place, the third place match had to be played. Many fans felt that a third place match wasn't important, after all, first is what counts. The finals is the most important, nevertheless this was an opportunity for Brazil to at least finish third and show that they can still stand tall after their embarrassing loss to Germany. I also wanted to see how they do. Are they going to crumble again? It was obvious that they were deeply destroyed by their loss to Germany. Things were not to be for Brazil though as the Dutch got on the board within 3 minutes off a penalty shot. Despite trying numerous times, Brazil couldn't manage to score a goal during the game. Netherlands' goalie, Jasper Cillessen was too good to beat. Netherlands went on to score two more goals to win the game 3-0 to take 3rd place and further hurt Brazilian pride. How long it will take Brazil to get back on track after such humiliation is anyone's guess but it's something to watch for in World Cup 2018.
It was finally here, the finals! Both teams had such a different style of play that one wonders which style will prevail. The aggressive but strong style of the Germans or the resilient defensive style of the Argentinians. Both teams deserved to be here playing their games really well and in Argentina's case, shutting down offensive capabilities of other teams. Will they be able to do the same for Germany or will Germany play on their semifinals level and humiliate Argentina like they did to Brazil?
The game started and both sides seemed to be playing well. Argentina looked to get on board first after a nice pass which resulted in a goal. I jumped from excitement seeing as this was going to be a close series and every goal counts. Alas, my hopes were dashed when offside was called, damn it! Still, the fact that they were pressing and Germany seemed to be defending seemed to be a good thing in my mind. They just had to keep up the pressure and not give Germany space to make any plays. As they say, the best defense is a good offense. Game continues and Argentina gets another chance which is wasted! Why would you miss such a good opportunity? LEARN TO SHOT! A bit harsh but this is such a close game that a single goal can determine who wins and loses. Of course, Germany had some good chances but Romero was solid in net as usual.
By half time, it looked like Argentina's control of the game was slowly slipping away as Germany was finally able to make the plays they've been hoping for. Messi got a chance to put Argentina ahead but ends up missing it. You can be sure that'll be hunting him for the rest of his life if he doesn't win a World Cup. The German side became more confident and more offensive after that having a header just go off the side bar. Of course, it wouldn't be the same if there wasn't controversy over how far goalies can be aggressive towards players. Regardless, the game pressed on and became more tense as time passed on. Germany generating more chances towards the end of play time with Argentina replying in return though neither was able to capitalize. It was a furious fight with both teams not willing to give in realizing that a single goal would seal the fate of the winner and loser.
As the game proceeded further into extra time, it looked like it was headed to penalties. Well, guess that's not bad I thought though I would've preferred Argentina got a goal in and finished before that. The game was stressful as is. Every play that was made by Germany and looked to be a potential goal candidate made my heart feel heavy. I had puts all my hopes on Argentina yet again after all my previous teams failed. I also wanted them to prove their haters wrong. To say, WE ARE HERE AND WE WILL WIN! You can imagine how I felt when it happened. What looked like a normal albeit slightly threatening play. NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!. My heart was shattered. What I didn't think will happen happened. After 112 minutes of ups and downs, heart aches and close chances for either team, Germany finally broke through. They were able to get that one goal, fuck this. Really though, credits to their manager. The goal was scored by a substitute, imagine that. With them being in the lead, Germany never let up after all. As every minute passed, the chances of Argentina scoring a goal lessened. As much as it hurt, I started slowly accepting the facts, Germany will take this World Cup and Argentina was in no position to challenge that. The final whistle blew, that was it. Game over. Argentina played well but they couldn't overcome their greatest enemy this World Cup, the Germans. On the other hand, the Germans finally got the win they've been trying so hard for. Their hard work paid of? Seems like it. Regardless of the end result, this World Cup was a great watch in the end with other TLers. There's still another 3 years and 10.5 months till the next one. I will be waiting on TL and I hope everyone else will as well. We'll watch together as Argentina wins the next World Cup
Catch him please!
Because when you're up 2-0, you should just relax and start...