Peter Goldstein is a professor at Juniata College in Pennsylvania in the USA. He has been
World Cup crazy since 1966. He will share his views about the past, present and future of
Read earlier columns
Forgive me for being an ignorant Yank, but I'm here to sing the praises of
the greatest football nation on earth. I've seen a lot on this site lately
about Germany. Germany here, Germany there, Germany the resilient, the
powerful, the historic, the heroic, the supreme, the godlike, Germany,
Germany, explaining about Germany, theorizing about Germany, talking,
talking, talking about Germany.
But that's the point. You have to talk about Germany. You have to point out
how they're really much more talented than everyone thinks, that they have
the finest organization in the world, that they have the most determination,
the most cohesion, the greatest singleness of purpose, the greatest
professionalism. You need to analyze their successes, you need to break down
their accomplishments, you need to detail their skills. You need numbers, as
many as possible; you need words, as many as you can think of. You have to
talk about Germany.
But you don't have to talk about Brazil. You don't need words, you don't
need numbers. You only need eyes, and a soul. Because Brazil is magic.
Because Brazil is beauty. Because Brazil is rapture. Because Brazil is
Leonidas, Vava, Didi, Garrincha, Jairzinho, Rivelino, Socrates, Romario.
Because Brazil is Edson Arantes do Nascimento. And Ronaldo. And Rivaldo. And
Ronaldinho. Because Brazil is Brazil.
What other country could fail to make even the semifinals of the World Cup
and yet earn undying admiration (1982)? What other country could win the
World Cup and be derided for not winning it beautifully (1994)? What other
country could make it to the Final for the third straight time and be told
every day how far short they fall of greatness (1994, 1998, 2002)?
In his latest column, Matthew Monk writes that Germany in the seventies and
eighties were really as good as Brazil in the fifties and sixties, and that
their numbers were even better. Maybe so. He also gives us a series of
expressive adjectives to describe the Germans: "dogged, " "invincible,"
"unstoppable," "dominant." All very true, and very well-chosen words. But in
one place, and one place only, I see a very different word: "wonder." And
Matthew Monk, our Mr. Europe, our number one supporter of Germany, only uses
that word to describe...Brazil. Carlos Alberto's wonder goal in 1970.
But why stop there? Pele's wonder goal against Sweden in 1958, Garrincha's
wonder run and cross for Amarildo's goal against Spain in 1962, Jairzinho's
wonder goal against Czechoslovakia in 1970, Nelinho's wonder goal against
Italy in 1978, Eder's wonder goal against the USSR in 1982, Josimar's two
wonder goals against Northern Ireland and Poland in 1986, Branco's wonder
goal against Holland in 1994, Edmilson's wonder goal against Costa Rica in
I have seen every minute Germany has played at this World Cup. Dietmar
Hamann has been excellent, Miroslav Klose has been remarkable, Michael
Ballack has been superb, Oliver Kahn has been incomparable. And I would
trade every minute, every second of their play for Brazil's first goal
against England. There's Ronaldinho, shaggy man, taking the ball in his own
half and racing right down the middle, with 1, 2, 3, 4 perfect touches with
his right foot, stepping over the ball, turning Ashley Cole inside out, a
touch with his left, one more with his right, and just as he gets to the top
of the arc, a visionary pass to the right to Rivaldo, who, moving to his
right and leaning backwards, strokes it sweetly with his left foot into the
far corner. English poet John Keats, who as near as we know was not a
football fan, knew all about it anyway: "A thing of beauty is a joy
Some people have said this is the worst Brazil team in ages. Well, it's
better than 1990 and 1994, if you ask me, but since comparisons of that kind
are fruitless, I'll just settle for what I can see. Yes, of course, I see
the by and large undistinguished midfield (just what is Kleberson supposed
to accomplish?), and yes, I see the mediocre defense (no worse than usual
for Brazil). But I also see Ro-Ro-Ri-Ro, every one of them scoring or
creating a memorable goal, or two, or four (see above). And I see a team
without an Ademir, Gerson, Falcao, or Zico still committing itself
thoroughly to attacking football, delivering their jogo as bonito as
possible. If I may descend to statistics for a moment: in a World Cup that
looks like it's heading for the second lowest goals-per-game average in
history, Brazil has scored no less than 16 goals in its first 6 games, more
than any team in 32 years. And I'm expected to get excited by Germany, who
showed they could play head tennis against the lost-in-the-desert Saudis and
got to the Final by becoming the only team in history to win three
consecutive 1-0 games in a World Cup?
But forgive me for the stats: they're meaningless. What matters is Roberto
Carlos charging crazily up the left wing and Cafu up the right, Rivaldo
conjuring more enchantment with one foot than anyone else can with two (or
three, if they had them), Denilson dancing toward the corner flag with half
the opposing team in pursuit, Ronaldinho curving an insanely inspired free
kick, Ronaldo slicing between sixty-five defenders before driving home the
perfect finish, and even Gilberto Silva, smooth as silk, dispossessing an
unfortunate opponent and slipping the pass to yet another attacker heading
upfield for yet another yellow-and-green-and-blue assault on goal.
I just mentioned colors. Germany's traditional strip is -- what else? --
black and white. Even at their best (and if this is a lesser Brazil team, it
is most assuredly a lesser German one), they fail to stir the blood. Michael
Ballack is the best midfielder on display in Asia this summer, but with his
sturdy body and rumbling, straight-ahead power he resembles nothing so much
as a passionless, immaculate Mercedes. Miroslav Klose is high on the scoring
list, but as he rattles in the goals from on high he is the precise image of
a bright, stainless jetliner. And Oliver Kahn, who has had as outstanding a
World Cup as any keeper in memory, seems less a man than a gigantic mobile
rock, his wide square face the outward aspect of impassable granite. Can all
of this compare with the life, the glow, the glory of one shining samba?
No. It can't. I respect Germany, of course I do. I respect them as any true
fan must. But on Sunday I'll be supporting Brazil, and I know the vast
majority of people around the world will be doing the same. Because the
bottom line is this: it is Germany we respect, but it is Brazil we love. And
why do we follow this game, if not for love?
Info on how
the World Cup was founded and about the trophy as well.
on every match in every tournament.
Interesting columns about the past, present and future of the World Cup.
with appearances in the World Cup. Detailed info on every country.
of many of the most influential players in history.
An A-Z collection
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since it was introduced in 1966.
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