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Right, I knew there existed in Colombia a tiny segment of support for, to say the least, a less than glorious period of German history and the accompanying beliefs associated with it. However, I wasn’t aware that love of the ‘Fatherland’ here is much deeper and more general.
Or so it appears to be anyway, given the delight that greeted Germany’s annihilation of Brazil in the World Cup semi-final. Fair enough, the controversial manner of Colombia’s defeat to their Latino neighbours left a bitter aftertaste; thus, getting behind Brazil, in the thinking that if they became champions you could say Colombia were beaten by the best (as incredulous as that now sounds), would have been difficult for many.
Yet that considered, gleefully basking in their demise doesn’t exactly reflect well on the people here. Had things been the other way round, that is to say Colombia thrashed Brazil after the latter fortuitously beat Germany, I doubt the Germans would be celebrating the success. No, they’d wait to get their own, direct payback.
The other way to look at it is that Colombia as a team has much to learn. Yes, this has been a great tournament for them. The swashbuckling performances that saw them power their way to the quarter-finals for the first time in their history have been a big highlight in what has been a memorable World Cup in so many aspects. Colombians have every right to be proud, as they are, of their new heroes. It deserves to be celebrated, as it has been.
The challenge now, though, is to build on it, to continue the upward curve. It’s a pretty decent bet that José Pékerman, the cool-headed, shrewd Argentinian in charge of Colombia, wasn’t jumping for joy watching Germany dismantle Brazil. More than likely he was thinking of what might have been.
For it could be said that Germany exposed Brazil for their naivety (plus many more inadequacies) in the same way that Brazil exposed Colombia, albeit in not as near a dramatic way and with the help of some dodgy officiating. Against Brazil, Colombia let the occasion and the aura of their opponents get to them for a large part of the match. It was only in the final stages that the players seemed to realise that Brazil could be beaten. Alas, by then, the damage was done.
The great teams are at their best when the pressure is truly on, when the stakes are high. Germany, the Portugal game aside, were far from impressive getting to the last four – in typical fashion, they were efficient, no more no less. They are where they want to be now though and you’d be a brave man to bet against them – unless of course you’re Argentinian or Dutch.
In contrast, Colombia lit up the tournament early doors but largely froze when they faced their first true mental and physical test. OK, you can talk about the ‘dark’ elements that worked against them, but the reality is they weren’t good enough on the day.
Developing that winning mentality is something that doesn’t happen overnight – Irish people know all about that. There are many mental barriers to overcome. Occupying yourself with the failure of others tends not to help that process.
We can all learn from the winners – and in a football sense, the present team excepted, Brazil are in that category. No doubt they will be back to scale the heights again.
The challenge for the Colombias and Irelands of this world is to reach those heights. That’s where the focus should lie.
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