Mario Gotze provided a pinch of former in the final.
Brazil provided every possible shred of the latter.
Of all those least-equipped to summarize the delight of a World Cup summer especially one as magnanimous as this one truly was I'm somewhere between a peanut butter & jelly sandwich and mint chocolate chip ice cream, so excuse the rambles. Brazil was transcendent. Looked at as potentially the World Cup to snag America's attention, yet it went beyond that. The previous two tournaments were a serious dose of Ambien. These five weeks were pure Adderall. Goals helped. There were plenty of them; 171 scored to be exact (tying a World Cup record).
James "Hames" Rodriguez. Bryan Ruiz. Tim Howard. Memo Ochoa. Germany. All of Germany.
What fascinates me more and more about the World Cup is how it's a compacted season of sorts, stuffed into an already near-the-brim duffel bag. There's no room left for better stories and performances, but somehow the gaps are found. They were found when the Netherlands ran rabid on Spain, when Luis Suarez went rabid on proper Italian shoulder blade, when The Machine dismantled an entire nation in six minutes. Somehow, room allowed for the adding on. Jurgen Klinsmann's U.S. emerged from the "Group of Death," though the thought of conceding that last-gasp goal to Portugal and how it could have changed the shape of their tournament lingers.
Talk about playing the "what-if" game. The World Cup was made for that kind of self-inflicted torture. What if Costa Rica could've buried that last-gasp chance against the Netherlands? What if Algeria held court a little longer against Germany? What if Jozy Altidore doesn't pull up lame 20 minutes into the World Cup?
Truth is, international soccer is college football or the NBA. It's the same rotating cast of winning characters, just a crapshoot to see which one emerges with the golden trophy in hand. Certainly doesn't take away from the end result. In fact, that's what made Brazil's nosedive so awkward to see unfold. The hosts were tabbed favorites to win, for reasons still unknown considering they had a single game-changer in Neymar. The anticipation for Brazil not necessarily of Brazil was palpable in that winning isn't enough. Style and pizzazz and smarts went out the window when the semifinal kicked off in Belo Horizonte.
One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Germany lead Brazil by a touchdown in a World Cup semifinal in Brazil in the waning seconds of a final four match. That will resonate forever, even for the casual soccer fans who took in the massacre at a watch party somewhere, a beer in hand. This tournament was simultaneously backward as can be and predictable. Brazil conceding 14 goals in seven matches outscored 10-1 in its last two was seen by only the most vitriolic Argentina fan. The Germans expounding upon their Spain-like development with a midfield as deep and talented as dozens of other countries. Then winning the whole thing? That turned out to be an acceptable forecast.
Lionel Messi's legacy remains somehow in the air for so many, despite his obvious deserving for a main spot in soccer lore. You could see his legs weighing heavier and heavier as the weeks went on, having shouldered the entire offensive load for a defensive-minded Argentina side that made it to the World Cup final and 113 minutes before being derailed.
World Cup summers are about possibility, not probability. Was it probable Germany, Italy, Spain, Brazil or Argentina would win? More probable than the U.S., Iran, Costa Rica, Algeria or Mexico. Perhaps that's where the genius of it is derived from. You play to win, but you also play just to maybe get there and play to represent and do your damnedest to position yourself to push forward. It's the same crests that typically do so at the end of it all. This time it was Germany, powered by a massive rebuild owed in large part to Klinsmann, that showcased the best team earning that honor with the trophy.
Majestic as it was, it's done, closed up for another four years. No more J-Lo or Pitbull or Gisele or Shakira or LeBron or Wycleaf Jean parading around as soccer fans talking to the press. Not at least for another four years. Focus on Neymar's return in four years, how the mileage on Messi's magical feet hold up, on how Cristiano Ronaldo looks in 2018. Focus on where the U.S. stands with the promises of developmental impact and skill development Klinsmann made. Onto Russia now, where odds are we'll be having a similar discussion about a powerhouse running rampant to a title and a few minnows delivering some bite.