Best team: Germany. Consistently dynamic, the German team was dazzling from start to finish. Beckenbauer wasn’t exaggerating when he said that the performance against Argentina was perhaps the best game ever by a German team. The maturity shown by the German side was even more impressive when one considers the team’s youth: Manuel Neuer is 24 years old, Mesut Ozil is 21, Bastian Schweinsteiger – that veteran – is 25. That’s just amazing. Generous, hardworking and even humble, the Germans were the opposite of the odious French or the smug Argentines. As I’m writing this, Germany hasn’t played against Spain for a spot in the final match. I hope they make it.
Worst team: Well, the numbers don’t lie. North Korea went back home to “dear Leader” with 12 goals in the back of their net. It was sad to see.
The vuvuzela award for most obnoxious coach: I would like to give this one to Maradona. El Diego mistook love, kisses and butt slaps for football strategy and then was surprised to lose. He was as ineffective as coach as he was repellent as in that last press conference. Domenech, of course, is also a front-runner. But the prize, I’m afraid, belongs to Dunga. The Brazilian catenaccio artist turned Brazil into a mechanic, unresponsive side. And all the while, Dunga was yelling, kicking the bench, messing with the referee, insulting the press, personifying his team’s nastiness. As Brazil recreates itself, Dunga is gone. Good riddance.
Best player: Diego Forlán. Yes: Schweinsteiger was amazing. But he plays for Germany. Villa was an impressive poacher, but he got fed by Iniesta and Xavi. Sneijder has taken the Netherlands back to where it always belonged: the elite. But, still, the Inter master wears an Oranje jersey. Forlán, on the other hand, is the leader of a team of very enthusiastic but hardly skilled warriors. Suárez has been magnificent, Lugano strong. But that’s it for Uruguay. It was Forlán who, just like in Atlético Madrid, carried most of the burden. And he took his team to the top of the class. Plus, he was graceful, charismatic and disciplined: utterly charming.
Best quote: “This was like a blow from Muhammad Ali.” Diego Maradona--being accurate, for once--after being erased by Germany.
And that brings us to…Best proof of madness! After the country’s worst defeat in five decades in a World Cup, the Argentine fans received Maradona with unanimous applause: they want him back on the job. Oh, well…
Click here for Howard Wolfon's Best and Worst.
Click here for Daniel Alarcón's Best and Worst.