The Third-Place Game Is Often the Best Game

“Back in the nineteen-seventies, when Brazil still played the jogo bonito, the Dutch star Johan Cruyff was setting joyous new standards of creative attacking play, and Italy had not yet transformed soccer with the dour technique of stifling defense known as catenaccio (‘door-bolt’), the Austrian writer Peter Handke wrote a play called ‘Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter’ (‘The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick’). Wim Wenders followed up with a movie of the same name two years later. That title comes to mind as being extraordinarily prescient. With the exception of Germany’s spectacular 7–1 thrashing of Brazil in the first semifinal, the latter stages of the World Cup have, for many years, had a sorry tendency to be dominated by anxieties and goalies and penalty kicks.” New Yorker


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