World Cup 2014. Argentina 0 - Germany 1
13 July 2014, 3:00 pm. Rio Plata Bakery, Elmhurst
"Few things happen in Latin America that do not have some direct or indirect relation with soccer. Whether it’s something we celebrate together, or a shipwreck that takes us all down, soccer counts in Latin America, sometimes more than anything else." - Eduardo Galeano
After an amazing month of matches being played in Brazil and watched all over New York City, we headed for the intersection of Junction and Corona in Queens to catch the climactic final between Argentina and Germany.
Foolishly thinking we could get a seat at a local steakhouse/butcher if we came three hours prior to kickoff, we arrived to find hundreds of drum-playing, Malvinas-defending, and air horn-blowing la Albiceleste supporters spilling out of each and every Argentinian establishment in the area and converging in the street in great anticipation of a potential third star.
As the start of the game got closer we temporarily satiated ourselves with baked empanadas and dark chocolate alfajores from a nearby grocery store and came to the conclusion that, like the hundreds and hundreds of other sky blue festooned fans, we would be watching the final in the street by peering at the glare-y TV inside Rio Plata Bakery.
This, of course, added to the overall final experience and ended up being a fitting conclusion to our month watching the 2014 World Cup with various fans at unconventional NYC spots that included everything from Cameroonian diplomatic missions, Algerian-run Italian coffee houses, Colombian hair salons, Ivorian cabbie hangouts, Japanese conveyor belt sushi spots, and Uruguayan bakeries.
As the match began we found ourselves wedged in on the crowded street between Argentinian men, women, and children of all ages who were jostling for some semblance of a vantage point towards the TV in the overflowing bakery.
The mood was festive with dozens of drummers, face-painting on offer, and the now infamous Argentinian chant being sung, set to the tune of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Bad Moon Rising, that taunts the host nation, “Brazil, decime qué se siente, tener en casa tu papa” (Brazil, tell me how it feels, to be bossed around in your own home).
Argentina had their chances in the first half, attacking with pace down the wings and putting pressure on Germany’s right back. Leo Messi uncharacteristically fired wide on a breakaway after a lovely through pass from Gonzalo Higuain, squandering an excellent opportunity. Higuain himself then missed one of the sitters of the tournament after a Tony Kroos error before having another converted chance disallowed.
Germany had more chances in the second half but the stalemate continued until the end of regulation. In extra time Mario Götze provided the one moment of decisive brilliance that settled the Cup, a wonderful left foot finish in the 113th minute that stunned the Argentinians in Elmhurst.
Argentina had one final chance to tie it up and force PKs, a Messi free kick just outside the box. As he lined up the crowd in Queens began to chant his name as we had all seen him bury such chances so many times before. Sadly, the world’s best player skyed his attempt, sending a wild shot way over the bar and effectively sealing Germany’s fourth World Cup.
As we walked home trying to hail a cab we talked about the game, Argentina’s missed chances, and the sadness that permeated the neighborhood. Ultimately, however, we talked about how much the World Cup means beyond Elmhurst, beyond Queens, beyond NYC, beyond Argentina, beyond Germany, beyond Latin America, and beyond Europe. It is a global spectacle that connects humanity to itself and then back again; unmatched and unforgettable. Only four more years…