It seemed for about a week that this would be a tactical tournament—a dullish Cup, shadowed by Inter’s Champions League triumph, marked by negative play and cautious counterattacking lineups, and ultimately crowning, perhaps more decisively than a champion, the incisive geeksite ZonalMarking.net. German efficiency seemed the closest we’d get to actual electricity.
How quickly things change—and how high a German defeat lifts the hearts of fans the world over. For my money, Joachim Löw can still boast the tournament’s top performing side, as well as its top performing cashmere: Germany looked as dangerous a man down against Serbia as any team this side of Argentina, and, having gone down to that inferior squad, may no longer be plagued by the panic of preeminence that seemed to trip them up in a lackluster first half. Ghana, beware.
The true maestros of today’s early-game tournament resurrection were, of course, the referees. There will surely be howls of outrage in the coming hours and days over the nine yellow cards (six in the first thirty-six minutes) in Serbia’s defeat of Germany, and over the preposterously disallowed U.S. goal against Slovenia, which would have delivered three points to the Americans and made them the first team in the tournament’s history to recover from a 2-0 halftime deficit and actually win. But as fans of the game, we shouldn’t be howling—or howling too long, anyway. However erratic, those decisions are not injustices, they are refereeing, and a happy reminder that soccer is not a game of numbers, like poker, mastered by biding one’s time, but a game, beneath the tactics, of chance. You buy your ticket and you take the ride.