It is yours for the princely sum of £12.33 with postage and packing thrown in for free.
Amazon has one copy of England’s 5-1 defeat of Germany on DVD left if you search for it. ‘This is the game that even the players can’t stop watching!’ the front of the box exclaims, with a picture of a bright-eyed Michael Owen bursting with delight after completing his Munich hat-trick.
It is doubtful that there are too many German sellers of a disc of the return match – a 1-0 win at a rain-sodden Wembley that did for Kevin Keegan, in case you’d forgotten – or that anyone really remembers it. Die Mannschaft, after all, wound up qualifying and made it to the final in 2002. In fact, they never finished out of the top four in the tournament since.
This is not a well-worn retread of all of that England criticism from last month, you understand. The point is only made to illustrate Germany’s unrelenting dominance of international football – something which seems to stay constant however the World Cup cycle oscillates.
Does predictability undermine this World Cup’s claim on the title of greatest ever? Is the absence of a great team – something that could be confidently claimed of Brazil in 1970, 1982 and Holland and West Germany in 1978 – another dent in its claims?
Not a chance. This World Cup has been thrilling, thought-provoking and above all a thorough rebuttal of the idea that international football is now simply the poor relation of the club game. That theory has been exposed by a month of the most amazing drama that you could ever imagine.
Four years ago, the World Cup was looking a bit like a busted flush. Spain had won with the most precise, scientific and wonderful passing football you are ever likely to witness but there was a coldness to it. Below them – and their undoubted brilliance – there was little else of note to report. Holland were brutal, Uruguay cynical and Germany creative but flawed.
Sir Alex Ferguson summed it up best when he gave this withering assessment: “It’s been a disappointing World Cup but I had a feeling it would be. I have been disappointed with the quality levels I have to say. I haven’t been impressed at all.”
In the months that have passed we have seen the rise and rise of the Bundesliga, La Liga reasserting its dominance and the Premier League delivering furious, rapid-fire excitement week-in, week- out. The Champions League has continued to scale the heights. The World Cup seemed set up to fail.
How wrong we were. There has been excitement but it has been matched by genuine, bona fide brilliance at the same time.
Lionel Messi has been divine: Argentina’s maestro. James Rodriguez, while hardly unheralded before the tournament, has moved from great to genuinely world class. Arjen Robben (pictured left) has taken the mantle of the whirling European dervish who drove a stake through the heart of tiki-taka.
There have been other scintillating personal performances: Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa seemed blessed with dextrous brilliance while France’s Mathieu Valbuena has been a supreme creative force.
Thomas Muller of Germany has been terrific; Brazil’s Neymar a superb and nerveless genius at times. Where do you start with Chile?
The predictability charges might be justified. Had you traced a line through your pre-tournament wallchart you could have called the last four of this World Cup. Germany, Argentina, Holland and Brazil: when the rest scatter it is unvariably these four countries that remain standing.
Does that fact dull the lustre of this brilliant tournament? Hardly. If the identity of the winners could have been called before it kicked off, the tournament is no less marvellous for it. There has been no great team but this has been the tournament of the great team: USA, Chile, Algeria and Costa Rica all proved that you can be greater than the sum of your parts if you bolster your team’s technical assets with a clear playing philosophy and a desperate desire to win.
And that is why it has really turned into the greatest tournament in living memory – because it has changed the way we think about the game.
Defensive, dull football has been thrown out of the window in favour of attacking, athletic sides prepared to throw caution to the window.
A couple of years ago I sat down with Shaka Hislop at a Show Racism the Red Card event and he made the bold claim that English football changed the moment that Kevin Keegan’s free-wheeling Newcastle United fell at the final hurdle in the Premier League title race in 1996.
His conclusion was that football had become more defensive and more conservative since the ‘Entertainers’ made such an impact.
He said that managers became more wary after Newcastle’s downfall, preferring to stick with what they had rather than risking it in the way that Keegan had.
Perhaps he had a point, although Manchester United – who went on to rule English football – were hardly early purveyors of Jose Mourinho’s parking-the-bus strategy.
What happens at the World Cup matters.
Attacking football has dominated this one and it is to be hoped that when the domestic game returns next month, the Premier League will takes its cue from what happened in Brazil. The first two rounds were simply stunning. The progress has probably slowed a touch in the quarter-finals but even then, there was the Tim Krul moment. For Louis van Gaal to summon the Newcastle goalkeeper from the bench in the biggest match of his life was yet another incredible moment of this unforgettable World Cup.
It has been far from flawless but in terms of surpassing our expectations, it has been brilliant. It has been the best World Cup.