We finally sorted the men from the boys. It has taken three and a half weeks and 60 games to reveal what we knew all along. It is South America vs. Europe for the championship.
Ultimately all of the others were mere pretenders. Colombia and its brilliant youngster James Rodriguez, Belgium and its Golden Generation, France and its refocused freshness and plucky Costa Rica, reaching far beyond its own wildest dream. They, and 24 other nations, are left to ponder what went wrong.
In the final analysis only one team can ever leave a World Cup truly satisfied. That team will hoist the trophy in a week’s time after successfully negotiating the seven steps to glory. Everyone else will have played a major or minor supporting role but for them the lingering question remains — what if?
What we, as fans, take away when our emotions are exhausted, somewhat depends on our entry point.
Canada had 32 teams to cheer for
The majority of Canadians are from somewhere else. It could be two weeks or two centuries ago but when it comes to this truly global battle for supremacy, fact is — old habits die hard. Canada does not have a team at the big show, but we all have a team because this magnificent country is, by and large, a land of immigrants.
Our inherent vested interest manifests itself in a variety of ways. We attach flags to our cars, we dress up our dogs in national jerseys, and we ‘work from home’ on days when our team just happens to be playing. A good boss is one who understands the message but says nothing. Chances are he or she is doing exactly the same thing.
So here we are at the sharp end of the World Cup. Is your team still standing? If yes, lucky you. The rest of us poor souls would swap places in a heartbeat. We have already mourned our nation’s exit, played Armchair Coach, and have come up with the perfect solution for how this can be fixed next time.
But Russia is four years from now. Which team will go to Moscow as the defending champion?
Brazil's depth softens blow
I can’t change horses now. Since before day one it was, and remains, Brazil’s World Cup to lose. Brazil is not Neymar or vice versa. The coach has 22 other players from which to select a team to beat Germany. There’s no denying Neymar’s absence, and that of the suspended Thiago Silva, is a significant setback but the hosts have overwhelming home support and everyone else’s sympathy vote.
While Germany and the Netherlands have proved themselves worthy contenders, neither feature in the dream final. An entire continent and millions of fans around the world want to see Brazil and Argentina go head to head on July 13.
The hosts have to win for the health of a nation. Lionel Messi has to win to complete his career resume and enter the Greatest Player of All Time conversation. It won’t be long now.