Sleep with pride
The football 2016-2017 season is over, and Germany has proved that there is life after Lahm and Schweinsteiger. It is too soon to tell what will happen next year. In fact, we might not see many of these faces returning to Russia, or we might see them benched.
What can be said is that Germany is showing how to build a team. They don’t have Messi’s or Ronaldo’s, but anyone who says they’re unafraid to face them is lying. It doesn’t matter if they say it now, in 2018 or in 2022.
But Chile has no reason to feel devastated. Sure, the match was lost. Not a single of the 19 shots made it into Ter Stegen’s net. And yet, they also have pride. The image of the final minute, with the winning team defending their side upon the pressure, should stay in the nation’s memories. Chile lost, but they fought until the end and never surrendered.
There can only be one winner, but in the days to come, two teams have made every merit to be received as heroes by their citizens. Two nations, separated by an ocean, could go to sleep with a smile on their faces. One more bittersweet than the other, but a smile nonetheless.
Game of Pressure
For the first 15 minutes, the game was all Chile. Pizzi aimed for high pressure football, leaving Germany with a near inability to hold the ball for more than ten seconds. As a result, Chile displayed a style that would’ve made Guardiola smile.
64% of ball possession, the only thing that seemed to keep the minutes from perfection was the lack of goals. It can’t be said Alexis Sánchez or Arturo Vidal were doing terrible jobs, and while Ter Stegen pulled off an amazing performance, the lack of a centre forward was growing blatantly influential.
Someone was needed to place the ball from Alexis’ passes into the front, and that person was absent. As a result, balls were aimed too high or passed by the side. Taking into account high pressure can’t be maintained for long, the need for the first goal was increasing for the dominant side.
Unraveled by poor aim
And so, Germany pulled a counter-attack. Aided by Marcelo Díaz’ mistake, Timo Werner went past Bravo, who pulled off an amazing performance of his own, and then passed it to Lars Stindl. He didn’t have much to do and he simply sent his finish beyond the Manchester City goalkeeper.
Chile didn’t collapse then and still attempted to regain control over the situation. But the misses continued, increasing the desperation. By the time the first half ended, the orderly Chile was gone.
They needed the goal more than ever, but Germany had had clearer chances for a second goal. Only offside rulings, as well as Mauricio Isla’s clearings and of course, Claudio Bravo, were preventing the game from becoming another German show.
Two desperate parties
The objective in the second half was simply to score a goal and they grew more urgent as time went by. Therefore, Chile routed for longer passes.
Just as Arturo Vidal had taken the team on his shoulders earlier, Charles Aránguiz took up this mantle now. The defence continued deactivating Germany’s efforts, albeit their mistakes allowed some counter-attacks to keep Bravo on his toes. However, the lack of a centre forward was still there. Alexis kept missing impossible goals.
Chile was growing desperate – and making Germany desperate in turn. Even as it ended, there was still a chance for Chile to score. The old wisdom of anything being possible until the final whistle had never been truer.
But let’s rewind, as the Video Assistant Referee would. Because he would be needed soon enough.
The (Video Assistant) Referee can’t help it
First, Kimmich’s complaint to Bravo led to a shove. The first prepared for fighting. Vidal stepped in, reminding the audience club season was yet to begin, and for now they were rivals. Kimmich was shoved again, and a brawl- something Europe isn’t very used to- was looking more certain than any of the teams scoring.
The referee had to step in. With the cause not being quite clear, some calls for the VAR were made. In the end, there was no need to further confirm what Milorad Mazic had seen. Bravo walked away unscathed, albeit a later incident would make him see the same yellow binding Bayern Munich mates Kimmich and Vidal.
The polemic for both VAR fans and detractors didn’t take long. Not even five minutes later, Gonzalo Jara hit Werner with his elbow, leading to three minutes of tension.
Mazic checked with the VAR, as the infraction was being replayed. However, he only gave Jara a yellow card, despite the blatant intention.
Choosing to let the game go on as normal, Mazic appeared to confirm that all referee aids’ ability to influence a game still depended on the main one’s judgement.
The tension only grew, to the point Pizzi received a red. On top of all, Chile, despite no longer playing the possession game, was making several attempts. The defenders and Ter Stegen’s demand went on. The time was lacking, and unless the match ended as it was, the other likely outcome was a tie and additional time.
Towards the end, Alexis Sanchez’s free kick was thwarted by Ter Stegen. The next minute, Germany, the Confederations Cup champions, was grouped behind the ball. There was no need to remind people of the old Panzer-resembling style. Keeping the 1-0 was more important. Relief and joy mixed together in the young German’s victorious cries as Mazic blew the final whistle.
- It should be noted none of the teams featured an extraordinary player. Cristiano Ronaldo didn’t make it to the final, and Messi didn’t make it to the tournament at all. However, even in the more desperate moments, there was a cohesion for all parties involved.
- Chile has made no goals in any of the three reached finals. Pizzi needs to look for a centre forward if he wants his team to fulfil its potential, not only in a hypothetical World Cup but also the qualifiers. The recent 0-4 loss against Uruguay comes to mind.
- I approve of the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR). However, many improvements need to be made (a limit in its use similar to tennis’ hawkeye challenges, for example), the last word is still on the main referee. If the referee decides to either let the foul pass or award a lower sanction, the minutes will feel lost. But that is not on the system. Football needs to keep evolving.