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We left the window open during a match in October 2007 and a strange wind blew into the room.

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Compound Interest

A ship being seized by a squid

This whole World Cup was boring, I hear some folks say. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

Siphiwe Tshabalala’s rocketing first goal of the tournament, for the host nation;

Winston Reid’s stoppage-time goal for New Zealand to salvage a draw with Slovakia and create general Antipodean delirium;

Maicon’s wicked inside-out cut for a goal against North Korea;

A stony-faced Cannavaro consoling the weeping Quagliarella upon Italy’s exit;

Messi darting about and creating Higuaín’s hat-trick against South Korea;

Michael Bradley’s brilliant sliding with-the-studs goal to secure a draw against Slovenia, after a long hard comeback started by Donovan’s blast just after the break;

Donovan’s shocking winner against Algeria, on a rip-roaring four-man fast break in stoppage time (which I will always associate with Ian Darke’s giddy call);

Germany’s utterly assured combination-play against Australia, England, and (above all) a befuddled and helpless Argentina—plus the joy they evidently took in their own playing;

Dirk Kuyt’s brilliant headed flick-along to Sneijder, from Robben’s cross, for a crushing goal against Brazil, plus Kuyt’s zany, mazy slow-motion run later in the match that didn’t yield a goal and therefore hasn’t shown up in any of the highlights—and that’s how I will choose to remember the Dutch from this tournament;

The manifest respect the Spanish and German players had for each other in their semifinal, a match in which there were sixteen total fouls and zero yellow cards;

Diego Forlán’s incisive, threatening energy in every Uruguay match, right up to his near-equalizer with the last ball played against Germany in the third-place match;

And finally Spain: not Villa’s constant threats, or even his wonderful looping 45-yarder against Chile, so much as Puyol’s header, Sergio Ramos’s runs up the right, and, above all, the wonderfully contrasting pair of Xavi and Iniesta: the former always vertical, calm, still, the latter zippy, darting, ridiculously clever with the ball on his feet and constantly disrupting defenses.

That’s just the good stuff; there were many varieties of fascinating bad stuff as well, from France’s collective lunacy, to the Suárez handball and his subsequent passage from weeping to hysterical joy, to the multiple agonies of the final match. There’s an old M*A*S*H episode in which Hawkeye and Trapper put a toe-tag on a sick Frank Burns that reads “Emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt.” That’s how I feel right about now. You could call this World Cup a lot of things, not all of them complimentary, but I don’t know how you could call it boring.

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Compound Interest

by Alan Jacobs · July 12, 2010

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