Stories that revolve around sport have always overwhelmingly proved Albert Einstein’s Theory of Relativity to be very true. Such stories have the capacity to simultaneously enthral and engage listeners and narrators alike, almost seductively.
Growing up, just like their countrymen, the footballers who will represent Germany and Argentina at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Final in Rio de Janeiro today would’ve surely been regaled of the tales of past achievements of their nations’ sporting heroes.
A lot of the stories these footballers would’ve been told as little boys have plots that intertwine, for the footballing history between the Germans and the Argentines is a tale that is richly woven and handsomely spun.
The Argentines, so close and yet so far from Buenos Aires, would’ve been told the story of the mighty Albiceleste team of the 1986 FIFA World Cup, held in a nation not so far away from their own.
In Mexico, the Argentines topped a group stage which contained Italy, South Korea and Bulgaria and overcome Uruguay, England and Belgium en route to their World Cup Final clash against Germany at the Estadio Azteca.
There unfolded a thrilling tale that would’ve surely had these little footballers-to-be listening to their fathers, their uncles, their elders, with rapt attention as they drank in this epic tale of Argentine victory.
It was the South Americans who took the lead in Mexico City, their sweeper Jose Luis Brown scoring in the 22nd minute. They doubled their lead in the 55th minute, with their celebrated forward Jorge Valdano making it 2-0.
But then, just when the Argentines’ performances were as flawless on the field as the sky above was cloudless, the Germans struck twice in the space of seven second-half minutes. Eyes wide with amazement, these prodigious children listened, as they were told of how the brilliant Karl-Heinz Rummenigge combined with Rudi Voller to make it 2-1 in the 74th minute before the predatory Voller himself made it 2-2 in the 81st.
But every fairy tale – even if it is rooted in reality – must have its knight in shining armour, and who else would that cavalier be but Diego Maradona? Despite being tightly marked throughout the game, it was Argentina’s legendary son who in the blink of an eye, evaded his marker and played a gorgeous pass for Jorge Burruchaga to regain the lead, a moment that involuntarily spreads a broad, ear-to-ear grin on football lovers the world over.
And so Argentina beat their European rivals 3-2, winning their second World Cup crown in the process.
But while these little ‘uns were clicking their fingertips and ole-ing in delight over what they’d just heard, on the other side of the Atlantic, at dinner tables throughout Germany, over plates of sauerkraut, black bread and bratwursts, sons and daughters listened attentively as they were told of how their country evened the odds just four years later.
The 1990 World Cup, playing in neighbouring Italy, saw the Nationalmannschaft top a group which included Colombia, Yugoslavia and – surprisingly enough – the United Arab Emirates. After beating the Dutch, the Czechs and, on penalties, the English, Franz Beckenbauer and his team would face off against the Argentines at the Stadio Olimpico, four short years after the South Americans had lifted the Jules Rimet trophy in front of 114,600 fans in Mexico.
Listening attentively, the Vaterlands’ children would’ve been told of the rough tactics the Argentines used to stop the Germans from scoring. It was the first FIFA World Cup Final to feature two sendings-off in one game. Defender Pedro Monzon, who’d entered the field of play at half-time, would be sent off after just 20 minutes on the pitch.
Monzon had the very unenviable distinction of becoming the first player to be sent off in 14 World Cup finals. He’d received his marching orders for a very hard tackle on the leg of Germany’s fox-in-the-box, the internationally renowned Jurgen Klinsmann.
Monzon would soon be joined in the dressing room by the Argentines’ centre-forward Gustavo Dezotti, who’d receive his second yellow in the 87th minute. Throughout the game, the Albiceleste would use physical intimidation to cow the Germans into submission, sacrificing goalscoring opportunities in order to wage a war of attrition against their opponents.
In contrast to Germany’s 16 attempts, the Argentines could only muster a single shot on target.
Dezotti was sent off for coming to blows with the German centre-back Jurgen Kohler, who was on the receiving end of a tackle that was deemed to be ‘right out of professional wrestling’ by The New York Times.
In the end, though, past the pain and physicality, came victory for the Germans. In the 85th minute Rudi Voller was fouled by Roberto Sensini in the box, and Andreas Brehme converted the resulting spot kick.
At the final whistle, while the German team exploded in ecstasy and elation, the Argentines surrounded referee Edgardo Codesal in furious frenzy, blaming him for the loss that had been inflicted on them. Diego Maradona, who’d been Argentina’s hero four years ago, collapsed on the pitch in tears.
Germany’s youngsters listened with elation as they were told the tale of how their country evened the odds, winning their third FIFA World Cup title and becoming the team to play in the most number of FIFA World Cup Finals at that time.
Like so many other FIFA World Cup winners, Germany and Argentina made history when they lifted the trophy. But at the Maracana on Sunday night, they will write a chapter in World Cup history that no other team has written before.
For the first time in World Cup history, two nations will meet each other in a final for an unprecedented third time. After years of listening to their predecessors’ triumphs, the current generation of German and Argentine footballers will finally take part in a match they would’ve dreamed of their entire lives.
Given the manner in which this World Cup has unfolded, Sunday’s final promises to be a tale that will be told for generations to come.
Published Date: Jul 13, 2014 16:38 PM | Updated Date: Jul 13, 2014 18:42 PM