At 12.01 am in Rio de Janeiro, roughly five hours after the World Cup final had ended, the Maracanã buzzed one last time with chants of “Sooper Deutschland”. The thousand-odd Germans still remaining in the estadio would have left earlier, had Bastian Schweinsteiger allowed them to.
Still wearing his No. 7 shirt and wiping tears from his eyes, Schweinsteiger held back not only his supporters, but his team bus as well. He had waited a long time for this hour of glory. Now the whole world could wait.
The stadium’s stewards didn’t look happy, but the photographers weren’t complaining. A still-moving Schweinsteiger was giving them still-life gold.
For five hours, the newly-crowned World Cup winner orchestrated a most delightful symphony. When he raised his hands and clapped, a thousand other pairs did the same. And when he clutched his heart to sing the national anthem, a nation sang along. “They should hear us in Berlin,” he screamed in German, till he could scream no more. Finally, as Sunday gave way to Monday, the footballer lost his voice.
But just before he exited the stadium, the photographers asked him to pose for one more picture. So Schweinsteiger stopped, turned his face to the right, pointed at his left cheek and said: “Make sure you get my good side”. The bad side, his right, was falling apart at its seams.
In front of 74,738 spectators, during the foamy dregs of the final, a bloodied Schweinsteiger lay by the tramlines to get his face stitched up. In the 109th minute, a forceful Sergio Aguero’s arm had slit open his cheek, just below his right eye. As the medic’s needle weaved in and out of the oozing puncture, the man writhed in agony.
Schweinsteiger is neither captain nor much of a goal-getter. Yet, he is the heart of this German team. As that heart lay throbbing by the side for about three minutes, a 10-man Germany looked vulnerable for the first time in the match. So he retook the field, wiping the blood on his sleeve, and soon, within seconds, all of Argentina bled.
When Mario Goetze flicked in his goal from Andre Schurrle’s whipping cross, he became a World Cup legend at just 22. But far more importantly, he put the likes of Schweinsteiger, captain Philipp Lahm and Miroslav Klose — members of Germany’s golden generation that made every major semi-final since 2006 — out of their collective misery. In fact, Goetze came as a substitute for 36-year-old Klose, the only German in this squad who had played in a World Cup final before.
Back in 2002, when Klose participated in that miserable final against Brazil in Yokohama, Goetze was all of 10 years old. And when Germany last won the trophy, against Argentina in 1990, he wasn’t even born. Yet, here he was in Rio de Janeiro, continued…