Das Experiment: Pokalmeister! (And a side on VAR)


Photo Credit: Source: AFP-Zimbio

“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.” —Gary Lineker

It seemed that way this week. Sunday’s Final was a study in contrasts. Only six players on Germany (five of which started the Final) were on the roster at Euro 2016. Eight players on the squad could have played in Poland for the European Under-21 tournament which was won by Germany. By contrast, all but five players on Chile’s squad were on the squad at last year’s Copa America Centenario. The match was dubbed “Chile’s Golden Generation vs. Germany’s Next Generation.” “Golden Generation” has to be the most cursed term in all of soccer. Yes, Chile won back-to-back Copa America’s, but what happens if they fail to come back to Russia next year (something that could conceivably happen)?
Back to Germany, they learned some lessons from the earlier meeting in the group stage where they absorbed the pressure and go on counter attacks. Indeed, Chile’s wasteful finishing in the 20th minute led to a goal at the other end. Marcelo Diaz’s error allowed Timo Werner to pick-pocket him and feed Lars Stindl for an easy finish. For the next 40 minutes, Germany looked more likely to get a second than Chile an equalizer.
However, Chile regained momentum after referee Milodrad Mazic gave only yellow to Gonzalo Jara after he elbowed Werner in the face after consultation with the VAR. After that, the perception will be that of amazement of FIFA’s ability to mess up video replay technology because that should have been a red card. Refer to Saturday’s rugby match between New Zealand and the British and Irish Lions to see it done right. An incident occurred and the referee went to the TMO as it is called in rubgy. New Zealand’s Sonny Bill Williams led with a shoulder to the face of the Lions’ Anthony Watson. Referee sees it on the big screen at the Westpac Stadium and give Williams a red card saying, “we have to protect the player.”
There are quite a few ideas soccer can pick up from rugby, but that’s another article for another day.
Back to Germany, they spent the remaining 25 minutes defending their lead and were saved both by Marc-Andre Ter Stegen and wasteful finishing by Chile, especially by Angelo Sagal on the 84th minute. Germany held on the for the win and Confederations Cup.
Coach Joachim Löw will have the best kind of headaches for a coach in soccer—selection headaches. He know has players both from the U-21s and this competition who can compete for spots in Russia next year as they are most likely to qualify. Among the standouts from Russia are Timo Werner of RB Leipzig who won the Golden Boot as the top scorer. Captain Julian Draxler, formerly of Wolfsburg and heading to PSG, emerged as a team leader and won the Golden Ball as the top player of the tournament. Mentions should also go to Leon Goretzka of Schalke whose brace against Mexico sealed a place in the Final and Marc-Andre Ter Stegen of Barcelona who came up big late in the Final.
Of course, no Confederations Cup winner has gone on to win the World Cup the next year. Then again, no European team had even won the World Cup in the Americas until 2014. This German team was built for not just next year’s World Cup, but also for Euro 2020 as well as Qatar 2022. It all goes back to their investment in youth development that has now yielded a World Cup, a silver medal in Rio, a Euro U-21 title, and now a Confederations Cup.
We won’t know truly for sure if the Germans will win at the end at the Luzhniki Stadium on July 15th, 2018; but after this day in Saint Petersburg, they are certainly the favorites.


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