I thoroughly enjoyed Sunday’s thrilling World Cup final between Germany and Argentina.
As a matter of fact, I enjoyed pretty much the entire tournament.
During the final few minutes of the game, which Germany won, 1-0, I made a list of 10 things I’ll specifically remember from the 2014 World Cup.
1. CSG: The day after the U.S. was eliminated from the World Cup, I came into the office and The Daily News staff writer Christopher Smith Gonzalez — arguably the biggest soccer fan I know — was sitting at his desk, not too far from mine.
“Oh well, the World Cup is over for me,” I said, loud enough for him to hear. The look on his face was priceless.
“No, you have to keep watching,” he said. “There’s so much more great soccer to be played.”
I did, and he was right.
2. Ronaldo’s pass: As painful as it was to see the highly rated Portugal team score in the final minute to force a draw with the U.S., the brilliance of the pass off the foot of Cristiano Ronaldo was something to behold.
3. Brazil loses 7-1: Really, 7-1? The eventual champion Germans showed no mercy to the host nation in the semifinal, leading 5-0 at one point in the first half. The hardest part was when the cameras focused on fans, including children, crying their eyes out.
4. Dempsey’s quick start: There was quite a buildup to America’s first game in the 2014 World Cup, even among many of us in the newsroom at The Daily News. We turned on the newsroom television just before the start of the game against Ghana, a nation that had beaten the U.S. in two previous meetings. In seconds — 32 to be exact — Assistant News Editor Jim Levesque, whose desk is next to mine, and I leapt from our seats and shouted as U.S. Captain Clint Dempsey scored the fastest goal in the 2014 tournament. It was also the fifth fastest in World Cup history and the Americans held on to defeat Ghana, 2-1.
5. My wife’s Facebook post: My wife, Adora, has really become a pretty loyal sports fan in our eight years of being married — well, at least football and basketball. Her post, somewhere around the third week of the tournament, was short and to the point. “I hate soccer. There, I said it.” I forgave her.
6. A new friend: I penned a column wondering aloud if there might be different methods for ending ties, which drew a response in the form of a letter to the editor from reader Gerhard Meinecke, which drew a response from me, which drew a response from him. Mr. Meinecke, I welcome the opportunity to take you up on your offer to meet — perhaps for coffee or tea, since I don’t drink.
7. Jones’ goal: In the previously mentioned U.S.-Portugal game, the Americans were trailing, 1-0, when U.S. midfielder Jermaine Jones ripped a game-tying bender from outside the penalty area. It was one of the best strikes by an American I’ve witnessed.
8. Howard’s 16 saves: The U.S. reached the knockout round and faced a strong Belgium team in the Round of 16. The U.S. lost, 2-1, after Belgium scored twice and the Americans once in extra time. But goalkeeper Tim Howard made 16 saves, the most ever in a World Cup match, many from point-blank range. Amazing.
9. Futbol’s next superstar: James Rodriguez of Colombia, at 23 years old, won the Golden Boot as the top scorer in the World Cup with six goals in five matches. The one I’ll remember came against Uruguay. With his back to the goal a few yards outside the penalty area, Rodriguez chested the ball to himself, turned and fired a bullet that grazed the underside of the crossbar in one fluid motion. It was an absolutely perfect shot.
10. The champions: When the World Cup groups were announced, the presence of Germany and Portugal in the same group with the U.S. and Ghana immediately made Group G “the group of Death.” The fact that the U.S. escaped to reach the knockout round was impressive. But the Germans, who beat America 1-0, were considered by many experts the best team in the tournament, and they are well-deseving of their fourth World Cup title. Congratulations to the victors.