16 September 2019
A few more days and the World Cup champions will be known. Photo: Bloomberg
A few more days and the World Cup champions will be known. Photo: Bloomberg

A few words before the World Cup final…

What a sharp contrast between the two semi-final matches in this year’s World Cup!

The first match was determined in 180 seconds when Germany scored three goals against Brazil enroute to a 7-1 demolition job, whereas the second match was still 0-0 for 120 minutes.

While Brazil fans in most parts of the world wailed and gnashed their teeth, local football addicts, who seem to imbibing a heady mix of sports and politics these days, borrowed some of the choice words that Hong Kong’s First Lady Regina Leung Tong Ching-yee threw at academic Ivan Choy Chi-keung last Friday — “shallow, ignorant, cold-blooded and unfeeling” — to describe quite appropriately Germany’s merciless blitz against the host team.

As for this morning’s match between Argentina and the Netherlands, it was full of harmony, which was how Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying described the current state of affairs in his government, with no real problem between the executive and legislative branches. The truth is, the game was anything but peaceful, just like in CY Leung’s administration.

As with all memorable games, there were unanswered questions. For the losing Dutch team, football fans could not help but wonder why they chose not to use reserve goalkeeper Tim Krul, who made the shortest and most spectacular World Cup debut by saving two penalties against Costa Rica.

Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, who is also Manchester United manager, can probably prevail because he is allowed to make decisions based on his judgment — without regard for public expectation — unlike his Brazil counterpart Luiz Felipe, who took all blame for the catastrophic outcome and asked for forgiveness.

Felipe knew what those three devastating minutes – between the 23rd and the 26th in the first half – could mean to the nation when his Samba boys suddenly blacked out.

But overall, they were two good games – with four of the best football nations contesting, and the better teams won.

Looking forward, Brazil can still redeem themselves if they win against Holland, who came close to taking the World Cup last year. But for President Dilma Rouseeff, the match result is not going to help reverse her falling popularity ahead of the October election.

The final will be a rematch of World Cup 1990 in which (West) Germany beat Argentina, 1-0. Germany will try to break the curse that no European team have ever won in South American soil, and achieve their first win in 24 years despite the two being the most consistent football nations in the past decade.

The only one who stands in the way is Lionel Messi, or the new Diego Maradona with a more healthy and likeable character. Since it has been a surprising World Cup with bitter Brazil and biting Uruguay, let’s pray for mercy and miracle in the South American nation.

A notable absence during the final will be Chinese President Xi Jinping, who was smart enough to turn down an invitation for this Sunday’s match while on his official visit to Brazil. The football lover must be smiling at his country’s chance of hosting World Cup 2022; China, not known for being a football superpower, could do no worse than the host team this year.

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EJ Insight writer