Messi missed the free kick in the 120th minute of play against Germany, sealing Argentina's fate
By Brian Straus
RIO DE JANEIRO – Time was slipping away, yet Lionel Messi still had plenty.
Germany’s Bastian Schweinsteiger, who committed the 120th-minute foul that offered Messi the opportunity for one last look at goal, was receiving treatment a few feet away. The Argentine maestro took advantage of the pause. He stood quietly for a moment then bent over and pressed his fingertips into the ball, testing the air pressure.
Messi was calm and deliberate, as if he hoped the measured pace of his movement would help clear his mind and calm any nerves. He was about 25 yards away and to the left of Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer. Argentina trailed, 1-0, in the dying seconds ofthe World Cup final at the Estádio do Maracanã and its fading hopes for a third title rested where they always had – at Messi’s feet.
It was an opportunity he’d surely rehearsed countless times – maybe as a boy in Rosario, where he was born the year after Diego Maradona carried Argentina to its second world championship. It became more realistic as Messi’s own star ascended in Barcelona, where he won every team trophy there is,along with a record four FIFA World Player of the Year awards. This was supposed to be Messi’s World Cup, the tournament where the sport’s most spectacular player, in his prime at 27, would end any debate about his place in soccer’s pantheon and in the hearts of his countrymen.
The free kick missed by miles, soaring over Neuer and into the crowd. Messi looked up toward the sky with an ironic, resigned smile on his face. That was it. The sport’s greatest goal scorer would be shut out for a fourth consecutive match, one he called “the most important of our lives” in a Facebook post. Argentina would lose the final and Messi, perhaps, his place alongside Pelé and Diego, if that ever was at stake.
It could have been so much simpler. Messi already has accomplished at the club level what Maradona never could, and he played this World Cup under a spotlight that his predecessor couldn’t have imagined 28 years ago. Win it, dominate it, and the argument is over.
Maradona was regarded as supremely gifted – Barcelona bought him from Boca Juniors for a world record $7.6 million in 1982. But he hardly was a legendwhen that fateful World Cup rolled around in ‘86. He’d escaped the slums of suburban Buenos Aires andwon a couple of South American player of the year awards, one Argentine league title and a FIFA World Youth Championship. But he’d struggled with injuries and chemistry at Barcelona and hadn’t yet lifted Napoli to glory. No one expected or demanded a title when La Albiceleste arrived in Mexico. At 25, he wasn’t chasing immortality.
Messi was playing under a different sort of pressure here in Brazil and he rose to the occasion during the group stage. He scored in the opener versus Bosnia-Herzegovina, beat Iran with a stoppage-time goal then tallied twice against Nigeria. Messi then turned playmaker, setting up Ángel di María’s gorgeous game-winner in the round-of-16 matchup with Switzerland.
But as the tournament wore on and the opponents got tougher, Messi’s impact waned.Under manager Alejandro Sabella, Argentina has focused first on defense, starting with goalkeeper Sergio Romero and inspired by midfielder Javier Mascherano, who remains the squad’s soul if not its captain. Argentina’s soccer is far from the rhythmic, high-pressure, possession-based sort that Messi enjoys at Barcelona. Argentina had only 40 percent of the ball on Sunday, a statistic that might cause a riot at the Camp Nou.
Messi’s contributions in the knockout rounds were intermittent and tactical. Set up to stymie Argentina’s primary threat, opponents made sacrifices in the attack. Games tightened up and scoring chances were at a premium. Sabella oftendeployed Messi in a deeper position. Hemight find the ball a bit easier there, but he was further from goal once he had it. In the semifinal against the Netherlands, Messi was shadowed effectively by Nigel De Jong and then Jordy Clasie.
On Sunday, he started behind one forward rather than two but still had lots of ground to cover when the ball came his way. And there were significant stretches when it didn’t. None of his four shots was on target, he was late arriving on a couple of counterattacks and he saw two promising first-half crosses cleared from danger after runs down the right. Messi’s best chance came in the 46th, but his left-footed shot whizzed across the face of the German net and past the far post.
Sabella refused to respond directly to a post-game question concerning Messi’s fitness, saying that he thought his captain had an “extraordinary” tournament and deserved the Golden Ball award handed by FIFA to the World Cup’s top player. Indeed, Messi led the competition in scoring chances created (21) heading into the final, a testament to his skill and efficiency. But that’s hardly a statistic they’ll be singing from the stadium terraces in Buenos Aires, and the glum look on Messi’s face as he accepted that trophy was clear indication that his dream had been dashed.
He described it in Saturday’s Facebook post.
“My dreams and my hopes are being fulfilled due to the hard work and sacrifice of a team that has given everything from match one,” he wrote. “We want to win, and we are ready.”
He could have made it easier for the public and the pundits by scoring a couple goals on Sunday and carrying the more important hardware back to Buenos Aires. There’d be a three-way tie for GOAT. But it already was pretty simple for Messi, who’s famously shy and the polar opposite of the outspoken, effervescent Maradona. He doesn’t play for the history or the trappings. He’s been known to sulk when benched at Barcelona, which can happen during a game that’s out of hand or meaningless. He simply wants to be on the field.
“The only thing that matters is playing. I have enjoyed it since I was a little boy and I still try to do that every time I go out onto a pitch. I always say that when I no longer enjoy it or it’s no longer fun to play, then I won’t do it anymore. I do it because I love it and that’s all I care about,” he told ESPN’s E:60 in an interview prior to the World Cup. “I want to be world champion but not to change the perception of others towards me or to achieve greatness like they say, but rather to reach the goal with my national team, and to add a World Cup to my list of titles.”
Some Argentines feared his loyalty lay with Barcelona, or even Spain, where he moved at 13. His goalless 2010 World Cup (when Maradona was the coach) didn’t help. Messi suffered from a growth hormone deficiency as a child, and his family was unable to find an Argentine club willing to pay for his treatment, which cost more than $10,000 per year. The Catalans offered, so he left. He owes Argentina nothing but has continued to profess his love for his country. He’s already been capped more than Maradona and still has years left to play.
“I believe he’s in that pantheon. But he was there before,” Sabella said Sunday. “He’s been there for quite a while already, in the pantheon of the big ones.”
Germany coach Joachim Löw said he told substitute striker Mario Götze during the brief break before extra time, “Show the world that you’re better than Messi and that you can decide the World Cup.” Götze decided it, scoring the game’s only goal on a brilliant volley in the 113th minute.
But no one believes he’s better than Messi. He’ll never come close. Lifting theWorld Cup is about far more than a given shot, a single game or the bounces during a month-long tournament. Champions are forged in the long term through persistent work at the grassroots and league levelsand a focus on culture and player development.
Löw said Sunday that Germany’s route to the trophy started in 2004, the year he and Jurgen Klinsmann took over Die Mannschaft and Messi made his senior pro debut. The talent and depth on display in Rio was a decade in the making. As Germany accepted the trophy, Götze held up the jersey of injured winger Marco Reus, who many considered the team’s most dangerous player.He missed the tournament. Götze was a substitute. The man who passed him the ball, Andre Schürrle, also was a reserve. He’d relieved Christoph Kramer, who was the replacement for late scratch Sami Khedira. Messi has nowhere near that reservoir of talent with which to work. His silver medal is the reflection of a whole lot more than his (in)ability to master the moment.
Messi will move on. The next game will be the most important of his life. His legacy may be murky for some, but that’s the fun of sports. Those who want to debate it can do so. Those who are happy to let it go and are able to relax — or sit on the edge of their seat — and enjoy the remaining years of one of soccer’s most transcendent, exciting careers alsocan do so.
Messi will keep on motoring.
This article originally appeared on SI.com.
Alejandro Bedoya, midfielder for the U.S. World Cup team, talks about blowing a paycheck, investment strategies, and an important money lesson from his father.+ READ ARTICLE
Bedoya on his biggest money mistake:
My first paycheck, I remember, I put in the bank. And the second one…you know, in Europe everybody is always…they want to look good…and it’s probably buying one of those brand name designer things that, I remember, for that month it was like probably my whole paycheck. Buying things like that. I mean, those things are cool to have, but it’s not really important.”
Bedoya on what he’s learned from his father about money:
He’s always taught me that it’s not what you’re worth, it’s what you negotiate. That holds true in every aspect. It’s really how you handle things and how you go about what you think you deserve. I feel like that has helped me out a lot with the opportunities I’ve gotten with money and investments.”
The two teams last faced off during the 1990 World Cup in Italy
By Ben Lyttleton
The outstanding image from the last time Germany and Argentina met in the World Cup final, back in Italy in 1990, was not Andreas Brehme striking home the winning penalty in the 85th minute, securing the 1-0 win for the European side, nor was it coach Franz Beckenbauer celebrating with the trophy.
It was actually current U.S. national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann, tackled late by Pedro Monzon after a one-two combination with Lothar Matthaus, rolling three times and then raising up on one shoulder to continue his pained reaction. The challenge was in keeping with the rest of the game, and Monzon, a halftime substitute, was shown a straight red card for the tackle by referee Edgardo Codesal.
Worse was to come for Argentina: five minutes from time, Codesal awarded West Germany a penalty after Matthaus played through Rudi Voller, who, tightly marked by Roberto Sensini, fell to the ground in the area.
Previously in the match, Codesal had rejected Gabriel Calderon’s claims after a similar clash with Klaus Augenthaler.
Two minutes later, Codesal sent off another Argentine, Gustavo Dezotti, for grabbing Jurgen Kohler around the neck and wrestling him to the ground in an effort to get the ball off him for a throw-in. Codesal ran over and theatrically brandished his second red of the game, reducing Argentina to nine men.
“The referee has been physically manhandled by five players and if Argentina continue like this, FIFA will have to ban them from the next World Cup!” said BBC commentator John Motson. “Surely you can’t have this in the final!”
This was Codesal’s last game as a referee. When he returned to Mexico after the game [he was Mexican-Uruguayan, and his grandfather was born in Argentina], he was confronted with hordes of journalists.
“I was brave and honest, like I always am,” he said. “The foul was Argentina’s fault, not mine. I’m calm and happy.”
At that World Cup, Codesal had taken charge of Italy’s 1-0 win over USA, awarding a penalty missed by Gianluca Viali, and blew for two penalties as England beat Cameroon 3-2 in the quarterfinal. FIFA observers gave him an average rating of 8.5 for his performances.
Codesal’s father, Jose Maria, was a referee who officiated at the 1966 World Cup. The one piece of advice he gave his son: “Don’t ever give a penalty if you think you will have to explain it a thousand times.” Nine years on, he remained convinced that his decision had been the correct one.
“I have no doubt,” he told Ole. “The referees don’t have to look for intent, they have to look for contact. This is what I saw: the Argentine tried to get to the ball first but he stretched his leg and tackled the German. It was a penalty. I was convinced at the time and I have not changed my mind since. For me, it’s a closed case.”
The case, actually, was far from closed. Soon after that interview, Humberto Rojano, the former president of the Mexican Referees’ Commission, went public on how Codesal had been appointed. He spoke of a meeting he had with Javier Arriaga, former head of the Mexican FA’s Referees’ Commission and a key figure in FIFA’s Referees’ Commission in 1990. Arriaga also happened to be Codesal’s father-in-law.
Rojano told Mexican paper La Jornada that “the authorities,” a phrase that is deliberately vague, had told Arriaga that “Argentina didn’t have to win.”
“I know the Argentines still hate me and that hurts,” Codesal told Reforma years later. “I love them and it hurts that I made them suffer. I would have liked Argentina won their third World Cup back in 1990. If I were God, I would change things, but I’m not God. I do know that in 50 years, they still won’t forgive me.”
Codesal had actually watched the 1986 World Cup final between the same sides in Mexico, and had been supporting Argentina. But in 2011, over 20 years after the incident, Codesal’s stance had hardened against the continued hostility from the losing nation.
“I admire the Argentines for their will to win, but they have not learnt to lose, they just can’t accept it,” he said. “Someone told them that they lost because I was the referee, and they believed it. When Maradona uses his hand to score, that’s intelligent; but if they don’t win, it’s because someone stole from them.”
FIFA will announce the referee for Sunday’s clash between Germany and Argentina Friday afternoon, and whoever earns the honor will surely be operating with the cloud of Codesal lingering in the memory.
This article originally appeared on SI.com.
Update: Two weeks ago, TIME’s Bill Saporito used the lens of the global bond market to accurately predict that Germany (arguably the world’s best-run economy) would be facing off this weekend against Argentina (one of the worst) in the final of the World Cup. We’re resurfacing his piece in the belief that readers would want another look at Saporito’s prognostication prowess. Here it is:
In soccer, Argentina is a global power. Ranked 5th in the world and featuring among its host of stars the world’s best player, Lionel Messi, it is one of the teams that can threaten Brazil’s march to the World Cup title.
In financial circles, on the other hand, Argentina is to a functioning economy what the Faroe Islands are to football. A bit of a joke. A doormat. Indeed, last week the U.S. Supreme Court slide tackled Argentina as it tried to dribble past some American investors who are demanding to be paid, in full, the interest due on their Argentine bonds. Having convinced other creditors to go along with a deal—part of a broader effort to right the economy after years of mismanagement–the Argentinians wanted to force the American investors to eat some losses as well. The Supremes blew the whistle on that.
This raises a question, albeit one more likely to be debated in bars off Wall Street than on the beaches of Rio: Are you better off betting on a country’s bonds, or on its soccer team? With Argentina, the answer seems clear: The country’s chances of paying off its sovereign debt in full appear to be inversely proportional to the odds of its football team winning the World Cup, where it was a 4-to-1 pre-tournament favorite in Las Vegas. Argentinian debt, meanwhile, has a yield of about 13%, reflecting a risk premium that only Nigeria approaches among World Cup finalists. In short, betting on Messi may be the saner play.
With global interest rates so low in a world awash in liquidity, you’d think more global investors would reach a similar conclusion — but in many cases you’d be wrong. Investors ought to be yellow-carded: Their quest for yield is leading to crazier behavior in the market than on the pitch. Italy is a prime example. Punters pegged Italy, one of footballing’s great nations, as a 20-to-1 long-shot to win the World Cup. They got it right, too, considering Italy’s early exit after a controversial loss to Uruguay. But the Italian economy is a lot worse than the Azzurri. It’s still mired in its economic past, and where young people are stifled in finding work. Still, Italy’s bonds offer a measly 2.92%, only about 30 basis points higher than the 2.61% for U.S. Treasuries.
The place where the football bettors and investors correlate more closely is Germany: The former had 5-to-1 odds early on, the latter a 1.38% yield. True, German economic history is not untroubled, but today it is Europe’s champion economy — the strength of which goes a long way toward explaining why European bond rates in general have remained so low. Germany is, in effect, propping up the rest of the European economy. After today’s shutout against the U.S., however, it looks clear that die Mannschaft won’t do anything of the sort on the soccer pitch. If the form plays out, one of the world’s best-run economies will face off with one its worst.
With a total of 171 goals after the final match, the 2014 World Cup in Brazil tied the record for most goals scored, which was previously held by the 1998 World Cup in France
Hint: It's Focus.
As Germany takes the pitch Sunday, fresh off crushing Brazil’s World Cup hopes in a historic 7-1 blowout, it’s worth reflecting how Germany got there. Not the team; the country.
See, this isn’t Germany’s first grab at the sport’s brass ring.The German national team is one of international soccer’s most consistent powerhouses. German teams—including those from the Nazi era, post-war West Germany, and reunified Germany—have qualified for 18 of 20 World Cup tournaments and missed the quarter finals of those only once. The team has also made it to a mind-blowing seven finals — a 35% appearance rate — winning three of them.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the United States has not exactly replicated Deutschland’s success. The U.S. has zero titles and zero finals appearances, and reached the semi-finals only once, at the first World Cup in 1930. This year, we were eliminated by Belgium in the round of 16, and finished 15th overall in the tournament. Not bad by our standards, but not great. And certainly not befitting of a country with the world’s largest economy, 300 million people, and an extremely competitive national team in almost every other team sport.
So why is Germany is so good and the U.S. so mediocre? Following America’s most recent loss, many theories have been offered. We over-coach our players; our college system doesn’t mirror international play; we don’t have a soccer “culture.” There’s likely some truth to all of these answers, but there’s one I find most convincing: competition from other sports. The U.S. has only so much athletic talent, and unlike many other nations, we tend to spread it around. Germany, on the other hand, concentrates the vast majority of its athletic talent on soccer—and they’ve certainly reaped the rewards.
In order to visualize this, I’ve assembled pie charts showing the revenue breakdown of the most popular professional sports leagues. The numbers aren’t perfectly analogous—updated figures on smaller German team sports are hard to come by, sports seasons don’t coincide and sometimes span more than one calendar year, and we’re including only major team sports. But as a rough proxy for each nation’s athletic focus, they are offer a clear picture of the sports the two nations care most about and to which they dedicate the most resources and, as economists and others would argue, talent.
In the two charts below, the green pie slice represents the percentage of major team sports revenue that goes to soccer. As you can see, it’s not even close.
Soccer eats up the overwhelming majority of German team sports revenue, while in the US, it barely makes up a sliver. Germany’s three major soccer leagues each take in over €100 million, and their combined revenue is €2.8 billion—the equivalent of over $3.8 billion. There’s really only one major sport in Germany, with a few second-tier leagues running far behind.
In comparison, America’s MLS teams have a combined revenue of about $494 million, as estimated by Forbes in 2013 (the MLS does not release total revenue figures). That’s about 1/7th of the NHL’s revenue, and 1/20th of the NFL’s total income.
So next time you’re wondering why the U.S. isn’t good at soccer, remember: the American people are not exactly focussed on the “beautiful game.” All things considered, it’s surprising we aren’t worse.
Sources: BBL: Deloitte via SportsBusinessDaily; DEL: Deloitte via SportsBusinessDaily; 3. Liga: DFB official figure; Bundesliga: 2014 report; 2. Bundesliga: 2014 report; NFL: Forbes via Statistica; NBA: Forbes via Statistica; NHL: CBS Sports; MLB: Forbes; MLS: Forbes
This was Suarez's third career biting incident
By Paul Palladino
Uruguayan Luis Suarez’s appeal of his suspension has been denied by FIFA, soccer’s governing body announced on Thursday.
Suarez was suspended last month for biting Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini during a World Cup match on June 24. He was banned for nine of Uruguay’s matches in addition to a four-month ban from all soccer-related events, meaning he will have to sit out matches for his club, Liverpool
It was the third biting incident in Suarez’s career. He was also suspended eight matches and fined $63,000 for racist remarks on the pitch in 2011.
In Suarez’s absence, Uruguay lost in the round of 16 to Colombia in the 2014 World Cup.
This article originally appeared on SI.com.
Yes, it was just about the worst defeat in World Cup history. But Brazilians are resilient
With sadness, self-reflection and gallows humor, Brazil was today coming to terms with its most humiliating sporting defeat, a 7-1 thrashing by Germany in the World Cup semi final.
“It was really bad. No one expected to lose by that much,” said Enio Monteiro, aged 55, who was having a sandwich at a bar in Rio de Janeiro the day after the game. “But it happened, and I’m not thinking about it any more. You’ve got to move on.”
As he spoke, a customer nearby was reading local daily O Globo, whose front page screamed: “Shame. Embarrassment. Humiliation.” And on the wall above, a TV screen was showing the lunchtime news. The two presenters were giggling as they read out the funniest social media posts from the game.
Brazil began the World Cup as overwhelming favourites to win the World Cup for a record sixth time, and for the first time as hosts. Yet this World Cup will now be remembered for the country’s historic hammering by the Germans: the first time Brazil have let in seven goals in an official game, the only time a team has conceded 5 goals in 29 minutes in all World Cups, and the worst defeat ever of a World Cup host.
“The dream of winning the sixth title at home has turned into a horrible nightmare,” wrote Globo columnist Renato Maurício Prado. “Who would have thought that in the Cup of Cups, Brazil would end up having the humiliation of humiliations?”
Brazilians were expecting the game against Germany to be difficult, especially since they were without their best player Neymar, out injured, and their captain Thiago Silva, missing a game for an accumulation of yellow cards. “But not even the most delirious pessimist would have predicted the result,” the Folha de S. Paulo said in an editorial.
Pundits here have been united in stating that in terms of national shame, Tuesday’s game now eclipses the conclusion of the 1950 World Cup. Brazil lost the title in a 2-1 defeat to Uruguay, which was watched by 200,000 people in Rio’s Maracanã stadium, still the largest audience ever present at a soccer game.
“The team who played on Tuesday in Belo Horizonte have rewritten our memories [of 1950] by taking part in the bleakest day in the national team’s glorious 100 year history,” wrote Antero Greco in the Estado de S. Paulo.
Since the 1930s soccer has been the greatest symbol of Brazilian identity and a good performance in World Cups is seen as crucial for the nation’s self esteem. Within minutes of the end of the game, President Dilma Rousseff—who is on the campaign trail for re-election later this year—spoke to the nation in four tweets: “Like all Brazilians, I am very, very sad by the defeat. I feel immensely sorry for all us. Fans and our players. But we wont let it break us. Brazil, ‘get up, shake off the dust and come out on top again’.”
The national team’s spectacular elimination comes in the closing stages of a tournament that had already created much anger in the Brazilian population for the amount of public money that it cost. A year ago two million people protested against the spending during the Confederations Cup, the World Cup warm-up event. “I think that the Brazilians have been at odds with the World Cup all along, and the defeat was a reflection of this to a certain extent,” said Norberto Schlanger, aged 49, a stationery distributor in Rio de Janeiro, who said he was cheering for Germany. “Not because my name is German but because I wanted the money to go to hospitals and schools.”
Fears that a defeat would lead to more protests or riots have so far proved unfounded, with only minor reports of scuffles in Rio and some buses were set alight in Curitiba and São Paulo on Tuesday night. In fact, Brazilians have been reacting with resignation and good humour to the result, possibly because it was so shocking. Even in the Mineirão stadium the Brazilian fans were shouting “olé” at the German team, a traditional chant you sing when your team is winning.
Many past Brazilian stars have been making their comments known via social media, TV interviews and newspaper columns. Tostão, who played alongside Pelé in the 1970 World Cup and is one of the most respected pundits, wrote in the Folha de S. Paulo: “It was a tragedy: sad, very sad, the biggest defeat in the history of the Brazilian national team. As a consolation, maybe it will serve to force big changes in Brazilian soccer, both on and off the pitch, from junior levels and up. There needs to be a change in the way of thinking, and to lessen the promiscuous exchanges of favors, a national disease, that riddles the country.”
For some, though, the only way to get over the pain of the defeat is to look to the future. Luciano Santos, aged 39, said: “It is sad, but everyone will have forgotten this game when the next World Cup starts in four years time.”