As the 2014 World Cup reaches its climax, emotions are running high for fans in the Cayman Islands.
Brazil stages its final matches this weekend, with the host nation facing the Netherlands in the third place match on July 12 in Brasilia at 3 p.m. Germany and Argentina battle for the World Cup trophy on July 13 in Rio De Janeiro from 2 p.m. Like those elsewhere, football lovers in the Cayman Islands are eagerly anticipating those contests. For those in the local sports fraternity, like netballer Kimesha Walters, Argentina have defied the doubters in spectacular fashion.
“I’ve been supporting Argentina from when I was eight, long before Lionel Messi,” Walters said. “I feel excited, I feel good, I’m overwhelmed. Everyone was doubting Argentina, saying they wasn’t going to win against Netherlands. Then look what happened. I’m saying Argentina all the way for Sunday. Everyone said Netherlands was going to win but my side stayed collected on the ball and pulled it out. It’s going to be the same thing with Germany. We lost to them before in the 2006 and 2010 World Cup so this time is going to be a revenge game.
“It’s not about Messi, it’s about teamwork, it’s about supporting each run and defending together. In the final though, I do think it’s going to be about Messi playing a game no one has ever seen before. He’s going to be on top of his game and motivated to win along with Angel Di Maria when he comes back.”
The Albiceleste booked their berth in the final by beating the Netherlands on penalty kicks Wednesday afternoon. Germany shocked the world with their six-goal thrashing of Brazil. Star power shined through for the most part as Argentina’s Sergio Romero showed why he is considered one of the globe’s best goalkeepers while German Miroslav Klose etched his name in the history books with a record 16th World Cup goal.
Both finalists have a long history in the tournament and against one another. Both have featured in the World Cup over 15 times and hoisted the trophy on multiple occasions. While the Germans have beaten the South Americans at the last two World Cups, the nations are level in head-to-head matches in the final: Argentina won in 1986 thanks to Diego Maradona while Germany prevailed in 1990 thanks to Andreas Brehme.
Germany head into Sunday as the overwhelming favorite though most locals prefer the Argentines. For Joseph Haylock, a flag football and football player and coach, it is hard to see the Germans falling short of their first title in 24 years.
“The semifinal, I thought, should have never gone to penalties,” Haylock said. “Argentina had a chance to win before that, even though Messi wasn’t playing well. When I saw Romero save the first one, I thought ‘I believe that we can win.’ I’ve been supporting Argentina from the ‘06 World Cup but Argentina will have to play the best game of their lives to beat Germany. Argentina can have a chance but because Germany are the better team, I think they will win.
“If Argentina beats them, they would prove heart can beat talent. I really want them to win but again, they will have to play the game of their lives. I tell you what though, if Argentina lose I won’t be celebrating with the German fans.
“Messi has to do more movement off the ball, he’s doing too much on the ball. He’s one of the greatest players in the world but he has to mix it up more with his team mates, especially when attacking.”
The third place contest pits a Brazil team downtrodden from their semifinal thrashing with a global fan base equally dismayed. Miguel Pitta has his local sports roots in football and basketball and says as the son of a Brazilian father – Athia ‘Chico’ Pitta – the feelings are more intense.
“In my heart, I wanted Brazil to win but I saw it coming,” Miguel Pitta said. “First of all, not having their strongest players hurt. They never prepared for that properly. With Thiago Silva and Neymar out, they were on their minds, they were thinking about it too much. As everyone would expect, Germany came out attacking while Brazil wanted to score a quick goal and then sit back and defend. Silva is the heart and soul of the team, he keeps the defense in line. Without him, they were lost and the Germans just cut them up. Any real football fan should not feel happy about beating people that way.
“Brazil had one of the weakest national teams they have produced in years yet still made it to the final four. A lot of them are inexperienced and played in the Brazil league. Honestly, I think they can do much better because Silva is coming back. Neymar has not been a big factor the last two games, it’s been the defense doing it. Veterans like Julio Caesar are the backbones of the team. Mind you, with Neymar there he gets two-man marking which frees up other people. But I feel Neymar is not a great player, though he will get there one day. He hasn’t reached his prime yet and he still has a lot of time.
“The older players are holding firm. Netherlands should do much better against us though everything about this World Cup is so unpredictable. No one expected Argentina to make it to the final and win all of their games. Even Germany drew a game. It’s going to be a solid game but I feel Argentina will edge Germany. With the way they’ve been progressing and playing, it’s their time. All Brazilians have a big rivalry with the Argentina but anyone who knows the game and good football will see why I could back them.”
The reactions since Brazil’s loss have been widespread, with many ridiculing the defeat on social media and others taking the extreme step to burn and trample on Brazil flags. There have also been people switching their allegiances to either of the finalists.
Both Haylock and Pitta frowned upon those happenings.
“As soon as this week started, I’ve seen man switch and say Argentina all the way,” Haylock said. “I understand it. We can’t cheer for Cayman so we have to pick someone else, but they have no allegiance to anyone. They go with whoever is the favorite. That’s wrong. If you pick a team, you should have the honor to stick with them. I know of one person who changed three times, that person went from Italy, to Netherlands and now Germany. It’s just that people are jumping around and I don’t like it.”
“I’ve had it, people telling me to burn my flag,” Pitta said. “Plenty of people here don’t watch football until the World Cup. They only watch the teams when they’re winning. I’m half Brazilian, played football pretty much all my life and represented Cayman on a national level. I’m proud of Brazil for what they did. I take it personal when people tell me that crap, these people like to tell me foolishness.”