Germany beat Argentina 1-0 in extra time of the World Cup final on Sunday, bringing the five-week event to a close. The game narrowing avoided going into penalty kicks, with Germany's Mario Gotze scoring only goal in the 113th minute. Host Brazil was bitterly disappointed not to make a showing in the final, but Brazilians likely consoled themselves with the loss of their rival Argentina.
Brazil’s national team did not meet expectations when it suffered a humiliating loss in the semifinal to champion Germany, but the country's tournament went off without a hitch despite last-minute scrambles to finish stadiums. “Sunday’s final concluded a monthlong tournament that presented a jarring contrast between Brazil’s hosting of the tournament and its achievement on the field,” wrote Jeré Longman for the New York Times. “The World Cup was well organized despite fears that it would be chaotic. The Brazilian people were hospitable. The soccer was largely attractive and attacking. Some have called this the best World Cup in recent memory.”
Summarizing the tournament's winners and losers, Philip Ross of the International Business Times said that protesters were successful in drawing international attention to their country's economic woes. "Protesters across the country were also winners, with a few exceptions," he wrote. "There were protests over how the government spent billions on World Cup infrastructure, including mega-stadiums that will be little-used afterward, while basic amenities such as public transportation were neglected. Organizers capitalized on the attention Brazil received to make the point that many Brazilians are disillusioned with the status quo – and in some ways, the message was received."
Political undertones could also be found inside the stadiums and around the world, wrote Amy Bass for CNN: “This tournament proved yet again what a critical window sport provides into the world we live in, particularly considering the fiery protests that greeted the Brazilian government when it signed on the dotted line to host. ... But the politics were not reserved for the streets of São Paulo and Rio: Inside the stadiums we saw fans in blackface when Germany faced Ghana and a spike in the use of 'Nazi' on Twitter when Germany faced both Brazil and the United States."
Some also found fault with the medical practices of FIFA, international soccer's governing body, with many serious injuries occurring during the tournament. Germany’s Christoph Kramer appeared to suffer a concussion after getting hit in the head during the final, but played another 15 minutes before he was substituted out. This is unacceptable, said Juliet Macur of the New York Times. “Given how much the sports world knows about concussions and how they can ruin lives, FIFA has been irresponsible and callous in how it has treated its players at its biggest event,” she wrote. “If FIFA and the game’s fans value the players as human beings, they should complain just as loudly when a player with a head injury pops right back into a game as they do when a player nearly wins an Oscar by diving to draw a foul.”
After many years of disappointing international showings, Germany finally got the result its preparation and investment deserved, wrote
Barney Ronay of the Guardian. “Victory here was always likely to be presented as a triumph of that frictionless German system, and indeed it makes complete sense that Germany should win the World Cup. This is the most perfectly calibrated, most relentlessly first-world system for producing high-class footballers yet devised, a piece of intelligent design that has now flowered to its logical end point,” he wrote. “This was an utterly merited World Cup victory, reward for the entire spectrum of German football, from clubs to football association, players to coaches. The challenge for the rest of the world is to interrupt the next entirely logical step – which is many more of the same from here.”