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Messi, Maracanã and Memories

Sidharth PG

As someone who has been following football right from the childhood, there are indeed a handful of matches whose memories bring back a smile on my face. The unforgettable scenes of Aguero smashing it in virtually at the last moment of the game and the season to seal Manchester City their first ever Premier League title and FC Barcelona’s incredible comeback against Paris Saint German in the Champions League, are some of such matches that reinforce football’s claim as the most beautiful game. But here I would like to talk about another game which evoked yet another spectrum of human emotion, the Final match between Argentina and Germany in World Cup 2014, which I still can’t reminisce without choking a feeling of what could have been.

The 2014 World Cup final took place on 13 July (1.15 IST) at Brazil’s iconic Maracanã Stadium in Rio de Janeiro. At that time I was in an Entrance coaching centre where things were pretty serious and strict as mobile phones were practically banned in our hostel and we weren’t provided access to TV’s in hopes of keeping us focussed on to our entrance preparations. So out of desperation myself along with three other guys, who interestingly were not even my friends, but were united by a common passion towards the game, decided to illegally jump out of the hostel and visit a nearby club where the match was being screened. As planned, we bunked the hostel by 12am, despite knowing the hefty consequences; walked almost 4 kilometres and reached the club which was already packed to its rafters with more than 100 people. Tea and snacks were served prior to the match and there was a guy selling jerseys of both teams. I bought an Argentinian jersey, and sat among the front rows so as to not miss even a second of the game as it was extremely crowded and loud.

Germany, presumably the powerful of the two teams had a better tournament throughout, knocking out the hosts Brazil in a humiliating and scary manner in the Semi-finals by a humongous score of 7-1. The historical perception of German efficiency was never in doubt here too as the German team worked as a well-oiled machine, getting past everything and everyone on its march to glory. Argentina, on the other side had barely scraped into the tournament from the qualifiers and had to grind out wins to reach the finals. Fortunately for them, they had individual talents studded across their squad who had the skill and potential to turn games on their head in a split second. Mascherano’s sliding tackle on Robben saved Argentina in the Semi’s and they won the match in the penalty shootout courtesy to their much underrated goalkeeper Sergio Romero. But as an ardent optimist and utter believer in the magical capabilities of Messi, I believed my team had it in them to pull of one more miracle, and thereby bring on the ultimate humiliation to Brazil fans, to watch their own arch-rivals getting crowned right on their homeland.

As the match kicked off, the Argentinian supporters who were the vast majority in the Maracanã as well as at the Club created an enthralling atmosphere further boosting our collective hopes. We were happy with the performance in the initial moments of the game. The best chance of the first half and possibly the best one for Argentina fell on to the feet of Gonazalo Higuaín, who unfortunately couldn’t convert the golden opportunity. Higuaín eventually had the ball in the net soon, which was ruled out by offside rules- though his prolonged celebrations made us celebrate like fools. By the end of the first half, Germany also missed a chance, when defender Howedes headed onto the crossbar.

The match and thus the World Cup was evenly poised and both sets of fans had their hopes on the ultimate glory. Second half was a continuation of the end to end battle of football with both teams looking a tad bit exhausted from the month long carnival of football. My high hopes on Messi came crashing down as he moved around the pitch as if he was carrying the weight of the entire world on his shoulders. Chances which he would have buried without half a thought were missed, passes he would have completed without batting an eyelid were miscued. The signs were all pointing towards heartbreak, but we kept hoping and we kept praying because we knew something got to give, and that something was a 21 year old named Mario Götze.

As the match moved onto extra time, Germany’s coach Joachim Löw pondered over his choices on his bench and made a decision that was baffling to many, he chose to replace his primary striker and the greatest goal scorer in the history of World Cups Miroslav Klose with young talent Götze. This instinctive decision proved to be the game changer as the unflappable Götze demonstrated perfect technique and commendable calm to chest down André Schürrle’s (coincidentally another substitution) pass and sweep in a left-foot finish with the prospect of a penalty shootout just seven minutes away. With what was probably one of the most delicately constructed and efficiently finished goal in the history of the World Cup finals history Götze successfully managed to seal the 4th world cup in Germany’s history and resign Argentinian fans across the world like me into a state of wishful thinking of what could have been.

The culmination of that World Cup might reflect brighter for me, probably because that was a threshold moment in my life with so many things being uncertain. But looking back, watching that final in such exciting circumstances and observing the effect that had it on me just reasserted in me the capability of football to surpass all boundaries and influence the lives of so many in such intense ways and I can assure you for sure that this particular match occupies a huge role in bringing me much closer to this beautiful game.

The writer is a student at IISER Bhopal. The article is part of a series called ‘most memorable football match in my life’ by our readers.

         Sidharth PG

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