Holy fucking shit! It was like someone walked up to you and sucker punched you in the face, knocked you flat out and you woke up admiring your black eye. It was like your body sucked in an intolerable amount of energy in a single second and the only way you could stop yourself from exploding into smithereens was turning into the Hulk and smashing the first thing you saw. It was like climaxing while riding a rocket into space as you favourite sex song blasted across the universe. It’s quite hard to articulate in words what you had just witnessed. “Nnnggggggggaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhh,” is the best I can do. It wasn’t just ecstasy or jubilation. It wasn’t anger or frustration. It was pure Football Emotion. You know what I’m talking about. It’s not a stock human emotion. It’s something completely different and it occurs in beings who have allowed the game to reach unhealthy levels of importance in their lives. That Football Emotion surfaces only rarely, only when something so incredible happens that all your other emotions become inadequate and all your normal forms of expression are rendered inept. Think Zidane hitting that volley in the Champions League final, or Aguero winning the league for Manchester City with that last gasp goal. And it doesn’t matter which side of the football spectrum you fall or what your allegiances are. In that moment your hitherto dormant Football Emotion takes control.
I don’t particularly support Germany; I’ve enjoyed watching them play over the years and want them to the reach knockout stages. But in that 96th minute, Toni Kroos’ free kick went straight through my head. Zing! Football Emotion erupted with the force of a volcano. My face melted as I screamed and gravity reversed as I jumped. Fuck me. That was magnificent. That was the single greatest moment of this World Cup so far. In fact, it was one of the greatest World Cup moments of all time. Consider the context of the goal: Twenty seconds left before Germany (GERMANY!), the defending champions, are basically knocked out of the World Cup in first round. They have not been themselves up to this point. They are a man down. It is over. And then, they get a free kick from an almost impossible position. Even some of the best footballers in the world only score one out of a 100 times from that spot. Kroos steps up. He slides the ball to Reus, finds an angle and curls the ball literally around a nation and puts it in the net. Germany are alive. Internet is dead. Kroos has scored an all-timer. He goes on Twitter and retweets a gif of his goal that says “Best GIF of this year’s World Cup”. Guys, It’s going in the history books.
It was also a great World Cup goal. Dying moments of the game, Germany essentially at the brink of a first round exit that would shatter dimensions and create an alternate timeline, breaking away from all established human notions and ground rules. The last time Germany were knocked out in the first round of a World Cup, it was 1938. As if history itself channeled through Kroos’ right foot and commanded the ball to evade every Swedish player in the box, all 11 of them, and hit the net. Boom, motherfucker! And right then, Germany were back from the dead. As if Kroos had cast a Patronus and vanquished the Dementor sucking Germany’s soul.
And to cement it as a classic, it was a fantastic game too; best one this World Cup has offered till now. Every second was a rush, every minute a wreck, every move a dangerous affair. You could smell the impending disaster when Sweden took the lead early on. Is this really going to happen? No way. It’s Germany, man. But then Germany haven’t been Germany so far. They have looked vulnerable, unsure and feckless. They usually play with awareness, with assurance, with equilibrium. But in Russia, they’ve looked feverish; their every move a frenetic attempt to find their true selves. They moved pieces around, tinkered and tailored and still couldn’t find it. In the end, they captured it in the most German way possible. Of course, it had to be Kroos, the man forged to hit a ball by the gods of football. And when you were done admiring the trajectory of the ball as that thunderbastard went over and around Robin Olsen, when the madness subsided and your brain could function again, when the world went back to normal, a simple realisation dawned: Germany don’t lose. You lose.