Netherlands 3 - Brazil 0

Bizarre officiating, but Brazil was clearly exposed as a mediocre team without Nemar. Maybe not even that good. It's tactics were also dubious, pressing high early, and thereby exposing their weakness in the back. Another big triumph of for the new Northern European style soccer.

Peter Pomerantsev has a nice Daily Beast article on the end of an era in soccer - the era of Messi, tiki-taka, and Barcelona with the rise of the Soccer machines just offstage, right.

Medically he might never have made it. At 11, back in his home town of Rosario, Argentina, Messi was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. “Every night I had to stick a needle into my legs, night after night after night, every day of the week, and this over a period of three years,” says Messi. But his steel factory worker father and cleaner mother struggled to keep on raising the 1,500 dollar a month treatment. His first Argentine team, Newell’s Old Boys, promised to pay, but couldn’t make good on the promise.

“Every night I had to stick a needle into my legs, night after night after night, every day of the week, and this over a period of three years,” says Messi. By 13, Messi was already a phenomenon—at halftime he would entertain crowds by keeping the ball in the air so long fans would try to distract him by throwing coins at him like Messi was some sort of circus act. Barcelona offered to ship him to Spain and pay for the treatment. It meant splitting up the family—Messi’s mother and siblings stayed in Argentina.

The Barcelona youth compound is called La Masia, a country house boarding school for 300 boys. The Barcelona ideal is heavily influenced by the Dutch concept of “total football,” with its focus on one-touch passing, movement, and the ability for players to switch positions, a style one Spanish commentator famously nicknamed “tiki-taka,” a nonsense word which catches the metronomic quality of Barcelona’s interchanges. But the team fostered at Barcelona with Messi would take tiki-taka to a new level, as a whole generation of players matured who were all small, agile and silky skilful.


Bayern Munich’s 7-0 thrashing of Barcelona in the 2013 Champions League semifinal was the first bell-toll: the liquid fugues of Barcelona’s elegant, lithe midfielders torn to shreds by a team full of strong, direct running and muscular midfielders. Holland’s crushing of Spain in the first round of this World Cup was the final burial. The subplot in the Holland-Argentina semifinal was Messi taking revenge for Holland’s destruction of his Barcelona teammates.

The subplot in the final will be Messi and the beautiful game’s last stand against the return of Butch football. Interestingly Germany began this tournament trying to play Barcelona style with a plethora of midfielders. They were weak and have become much better playing more traditionally. The miraculous brand of Billy-the-Fish football is almost over and the butch giants are back. Enjoy Messi while you can—he might play on for a few years yet but everything he represents is already a relic.


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