Remembering moments of elation, dejection

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger sits and rests after winning the World Cup trophy at the end of...

Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger sits and rests after winning the World Cup trophy at the end of their 2014 World Cup final against Argentina at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro July 13, 2014. (REUTERS/Dylan Martinez)

KURTIS LARSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:32 PM ET

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- My mind is forever a World Cup photo album.

When I play back the plethora of matches I made it to here in South America, I become a human screen saver.

I see Dutchman Robin van Persie soaring through the air in a dream group stage date with Spain.

I see Portuguese protagonist Pepe mindlessly headbutting Germany's Thomas Mueller before seeing red.

I see a pair of Cameroon players fighting on the field of play after completely laying an egg in the middle of the Amazon rainforest.

These are images that stay with you. Lifelong soccer fans understand what they mean to someone eager to attend soccer's biggest stage.

They understand what it means to see your country of origin score a goal at a World Cup.

And what it means to attend a penalty kick shootout from which a minnow like Costa Rica advances.

You remember these moments because of the elation. You can't help but feel uplifted.

But looking back at this tournament, those who were here will forever replay images of complete dejection -- the sound of the air completely being sucked out of a stadium.

[Reuters photo of Brazil fan]

The sound of 3,000 Germans losing their minds in a semifinal dismantling of Brazil, surrounded by a sea of yellow that stared blankly at what they were witnessing.

Then there's the final chapter of this World Cup odyssey: Taking a seat high above the Maracana here in Rio as those lucky enough to get a ticket began to file in.

The Argentine supporters were deafening. Their piercing whistles whenever Germany had the ball literally made me put earbuds in.

It was nothing like anything back home in North America, where fans -- while passionate -- don't live and die with every kick, hit or pitch.

When Germany's Mario Gotze scored an extra-time winner here Sunday night, it was as if everyone wearing blue needed a psychiatrist.

It was the kind of crushing sadness only produced following the death of a close family member.

There were concerns ahead of Sunday's final that this would be another monotonous championship match.

But in a tournament with so many surprises, so many story lines, it was anything but the lifeless World Cup finals we've seen in the recent past.

It was a championship match befitting of a tournament that has only featured a handful of stalemates.

It was capped by a world-class finish that was needed to unlock one of the best defences in the tournament.

It was a match that kept soccer's narrative intact: This will always be a game that produces highs and lows that can alter the complexion of a match in the time it takes you to bat an eyelash.

Just as fast, we say farewell to a few of the World Cup's all-time best. Some of the players here are now a thing of the past, steeped in the competition's history as having repeatedly performed at the highest level.

Germany's Miroslav Klose, the Netherlands' van Persie and embattled Brazilian netminder Julio Cesar likely won't be back.

American goalkeeper Tim Howard will forever be remembered in North America for putting on a performance for the ages in a knockout game against Belgium.

[Reuters photo of Tim Howard]

From the African confederation, Samuel Eto'o, Didier Drogba and Michael Essien will be nearly impossible to replace as they hand over the baton to a generation of African footballers who are improving every four years.

Then there's Spain, a side that arrived in Brazil seeking a fourth major title -- a group that had ruled the game for half a decade before being humbled in the group stage.

Setting individual moments aside, Brazil 2014 was also about a changing of the tide, an affirmation that Germany is undoubtedly the most compete squad on the planet.

This tournament saw a shift towards a new brand of soccer, one that sees every player on the pitch play both sides of the ball in addition to demonstrating fearlessness going forward with balance and control.

The Germans didn't mark Argentina's Lionel Messi. They didn't need to. Spells of overwhelming possession and a willingness to defend with numbers nullified Argentina's biggest threat most of Sunday night.

More than anything, this German edition will be remembered as a team without weakness, a side with the right recipe of pieces that became the first European side to win a World Cup on South American soil.

The scary thing is that nobody's close to the Germans at the moment. The Netherlands, maybe the closest thing, could lose a few key pieces come Russia 2018.

Brazil and Argentina, the class of South America, have wilted the past few weeks.

The photo album that is my mind will forever hold an image of Germany's Philipp Lahm lifting the World Cup trophy here in Rio.

Something tells me I'll need to make space for a similar image when the Germans roll into Russia four years from now.

For now, German manager Joachim Low, and his players, should take a bow.

Larson out.

TOP 5 WORLD CUP TALKING POINTS

1) BRAZIL HAMMERED ON HOME SOIL: I didn't even see goals three and four as I was too busy looking for a replay of the Germany's second goal. Until now, Brazil losing at home was unthinkable. Losing 7-1 in a World Cup semifinal was once in a century.

2) GERMANS IN A DIFFERENT CLASS: The Germans didn't lose here in Brazil. I'll leave it up to the historians to place them among this tournament's top teams. I can't imagine there being another much better World Cup side.

3) COSTA RICA INTO RECORD BOOKS: Everyone loves an upset. The Central Americans became one of the all-time great story lines by nearly getting to the World Cup semifinals. They were one of the most difficult sides to play against in the tournament.

4) INSTANT REPLAY NEEDED?: How much longer can we allow referees to make incorrect calls that alter the complexion of matches? The better question: Is it possible to implement replay in a game that never stops?

5) FOREVER A LEGEND: We all talked about whether Argentina's Lionel Messi would become one of the all-time greats. In doing so, we barely spoke of the World Cup's all-time top performer, Germany's Miroslav Klose.


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