Football

By Gideon Rachman
Germany has a habit of winning the World Cup at symbolic moments. Victory in 1954 – captured in the film, The Miracle of Bern – allowed Germans a moment of pride and redemption after defeat and disgrace in 1945. A second victory in 1974 went to a West Germany whose “economic miracle” had, by then, allowed it to regain its status as one of the world’s most advanced nations. Victory in 1990, just months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, caught the joy and potential of a soon-to-be united Germany.

The success of a football match, traditionally measured by who scores the most goals, can now also be measured by who scores the most tweets.

Twitter said that last night’s final between Germany and Argentina generated a new “tweets per minute” record, with a peak TPM of 618,725 World Cup related tweets as the final whistle blew.

During the final, the second-highest TPM of 556,449 occurred when Germany’s Mario Götze scored the winning goal against Argentina – the aftermath of which can be seen in Twitter’s real-time interactive animation of World Cup tweets during extra time, with much of the world lighting up in white in the seconds after the goal: Read more >>

In July 1990, a controversial late penalty by Andreas Brehme won the World Cup for Germany and snatched the title from Argentina. As a boy growing up in Buenos Aires, I can still remember vividly Diego Maradona’s inconsolable tears as the selección limped off the pitch of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.

Those were my tears too. But 24 years later, there is a chance finally to erase that childhood trauma. On Sunday, Argentina faces Germany in a World Cup final once again.

As a fan of la albiceleste I can’t really complain. During my lifetime Argentina have won two World Cups, including beating West Germany in the 1986 final, and produced some of the finest players in recent years, from Maradona to today’s hero, Lionel Messi.

I was a year old, and living relatively close to the River Plate stadium, when Argentina beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final. When they did it again eight years later in Mexico, I was old enough to realise what it meant and to feel the country’s intoxicated joy as Maradona raised the trophy above his head in the sunny Estadio Azteca. Read more >>

Claire Jones

The front page of Wednesday's Bild

When the final whistle put an end to the drubbing, the winning team celebrated with unusual restraint.

Despite an incredible seven of Germany’s 14 shots ending up in the back of the net, there was little gloating at having delivered a stunning 7-1 thrashing to Brazil, tournament favourites, on their home turf.

The players’ wish to express their joy of securing a place in a World Cup final was delayed by pity – a sense that their opponents, and the Brazilians in the crowd, should not be embarrassed further within the dome of the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.

That will have won them as many fans as the flair with which they played last night.

Back in Germany, however, the reaction was as euphoric as one would expect when the national team secures a shot at football’s ultimate prize in such emphatic fashion. Read more >>

Gideon Rachman

Watching the World Cup from Brazil – as I did last week – it was impossible to miss the huge weight of expectations placed on the national team. Half the country – including some toddlers and dogs – seemed to be wearing the yellow jersey of Brazil. Some Brazilians told me that the players would use that pressure to inspire themselves to greater heights. That always seemed doubtful to me. And last night, we saw the opposite happen: the Brazil team crumbled under unbearable pressure and lost by an unthinkable amount. Read more >>

Gideon Rachman

In an effort to make sense of Britain’s European predicament, I decided that I needed to put some distance between myself and the inglorious events in Brussels. So I have travelled to Brazil, where there appears to be some sort of football tournament going on.

In fact, there are certain obvious parallels between what happened to David Cameron in Brussels and what happened to the England team in Brazil – ignominious defeat being the clear link. However, it seems to me that the England team at the World Cup were actually rather better prepared and more professional than the British government in Brussels and that was reflected in the margin of defeat: 2-1 rather than 26-2. Read more >>

Every World Cup needs a villain, and Uruguay’s Luis Suárez must have been the pre-tournament bookmakers’ favourite to fill the role. Now he has obliged, for the second World Cup running. In 2010 he did it by saving a last-minute Ghanaian shot with his hands. He was sent off, but Ghana missed the subsequent penalty, and Uruguay went on to the semifinal.

On Tuesday the apparent bite he took out of Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini provided possibly the first iconic moment of this World Cup. Fifa’s disciplinary committee has yet to give its verdict, but the vast majority of global non-Uruguayan opinion seems to believe it was a bite. Jim Boyle, head of Fifa’s refereeing committee, told British TV: “Once again, his actions have left him open to severe criticism.” Once again Suárez’s personal dysfunction is being displayed before the world, and once again he has only his compatriots to defend him. Read more >>

Brazilian players listen to their national anthem before a Group A football match between Brazil and Mexico in the Castelao Stadium in Fortaleza during the 2014 FIFA World Cup

(Photograph: AFP)

By Thalita Carrico

One week after the start of the World Cup, there seems little doubt

about where Brazilians’ loyalty lies. On days when the Seleção – the national team – is playing, São Paulo comes alive with people wearing their yellow and green jerseys and the streets are filled with the noise of horns used by soccer supporters.

After Brazilians staged massive protests last year during the
Confederations Cup, the dress rehearsal event for the World Cup, the country put on hold any excitement over the 2014 tournament. As demonstrations this year against government spending on the World Cup allegedly at the expense of social services became more violent, people began to question whether Brazil was still the country of soccer. Read more >>

Just when it seemed that European politics could get no harder for Angela Merkel, a new complication has emerged in the tangled world of the EU.

The German chancellor is already involved in a head-splitting row over the probable appointment of Jean Claude Juncker as the next European Commission president. This week while Ms Merkel was in Brazil watching Germany’s opening victory of the World Cup, the first big split emerged in her ruling coalition.

Sigmar Gabriel, her deputy, pounced on Ms Merkel’s absence to challenge her eurozone economic policy, in an intervention that has the potential to sour relations long after the original dispute is forgotten. Read more >>

Uruguay's Luis Suarez celebrates scoring his team's second goal against England during their 2014 World Cup Group D soccer match at the Corinthians arena in Sao Paulo June 19, 2014

Credit: Reuters

By Simon Kuper in São Paulo

England deserve to go home early. A poor witless team was undone by Luis Suarez, who only a month ago was in hospital having a cartilage operation. After England’s defeat to Italy in Manaus on Saturday, they now have no points from two games. Even a thumping win against little Costa Rica in Belo Horizonte on Tuesday – of which this team do not look capable – would probably not be enough to save them. Read more >>