Monday, July 14, 2014

Gotze Goal

How'd you like to score the game-winning goal in the World Cup final when you're 22 years old? Barely 22, at that?

TigerBlog's sense is that Mario Gotze is having a pretty good today. Why wouldn't he? Gotze - at the old age of 22 years, one month and 11 days - scored the only goal in Germany's 1-0 win over Argentina in the World Cup final.

Gotze, who plays for Bayern Munich, probably will never have to pay for anything at the Hofbrauhaus - or for a wienerschnitzel anywhere - ever again.

The goal was a beautiful one. 

It took until the 113th minute for someone to score, though at least someone finally did, so that the World Cup wasn't decided by PKs. Gotze took a cross and, without ever letting the ball hit the ground, chested it and then left-footed it cleanly into the goal.

The cross came from Andre Schurrle, who will have to be content with winning the World Cup, since he won't get 1/1000th the adulation that Gotze will, but those are the breaks.

The difference between winning and losing in any round of any championship event can be extreme, and it's even more so in the World Cup.

For starters, the final is always going to be close, perhaps out of fear of making the crucial early mistake and digging a big hole.

Yesterday's game as the 19th World Cup final. Of those 19, there have been 11 decided by one goal (or tied and decided on PKs).

In fact, the goal that Gotze scored was nothing compared to the one four years ago, which came when Spain's Andres Iniesta scored in the 116th minute of another 1-0 win.

TigerBlog is seriously invested in some of his teams. He knows that he cannot imagine what it is like to be a German or Argentine soccer fan and watch that game.

Particularly striking to TB has been the pictures of fans weeping in the stands when their team loses. The Brazilians felt it early and often in the 7-1 loss to Germany, and the highlights of the game on the ESPN story are filled with sobbing Argentines.

TigerBlog has been pretty bummed after a few losses in his time here. As he has said, he can tell you easily what the most crushing Princeton loss he has experienced was.

It came in the second round of the 1998 NCAA men's basketball tournament, at what was then the Hartford Civic Center.

Princeton was 27-1 entering the game, having dispatched easily with UNLV in the first round. Awaiting was Michigan State, the fourth seed, while Princeton was seeded fifth, something that no Ivy League team has come close to matching.

Michigan State was two years away from winning the NCAA title, but the Spartans started four of the players who would start against two years later. It was 10-0 Michigan State before the Tigers rallied to tie it late in the second half, only to have Mateen Cleaves break Princeton's - and TB's - heart.

TigerBlog still feels bad that Princeton didn't get to the Sweet 16 that year. When Cornell got there in 2010, TB thought that should have been 1998 Princeton instead.

Still, he didn't weep.

Maybe it's not what American fans do. Maybe it's just that the passion of the World Cup is so intense that an American sports fan can't relate. Maybe, as into sports as Americans are, they just don't have that level of passion.

Anyway, the 2014 World Cup is over. The next one is in 2018, in Russia.

Qualifying begins in 2016.

TigerBlog is ready now.

After all, even if lacrosse is his favorite sport and he is an American, TB knows the best sporting event in the world when he sees it.

And the World Cup is it.

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