World Cups fall into different categories, and it'll be a while before we can put what we've just witnessed into context. There are Hollywood blockbusters like Brazil '50 (Titanic), West Germany '74 (Ben Hur) and Mexico '86 (Blazing Saddles.) Then there are are more cerebral art-house efforts like Italia '90 (The Seventh Seal) and Chile '62 (La Dolce Vita.) Normally though, you get what you pay exboritant amounts of money to building contractors and FIFA executives for. There will be stars, tight games will be settled by great goals, there will be violence, niggly fouls, at least one horrible injury, and a player and a team will confirm themselves as the best in the World.
This World Cup, however, we got very little of that. It felt different. It was perhaps more The Empire Strikes Back, a curious sequel to what we thought was a standalone film in Spain's triumph. Fun? Yes, absolutely. But did it make much sense? Well, no, not on its own.
That's not to say there's no context. We've had the grisly end of the Spanish reign, the best team probably won out in the end and we had one of the most extraordinary results of all time. And a European team clinched the title in South America for the very first time. Not a bad story.
But what great players did we get? James Rodriguez was probably the star of the tournament for a side that started well and fizzled out suddenly. The BBC's 'great goals' compilation consisted of a mere seven efforts, with a couple of those questionable. Cristiano Ronaldo went out of the tournament with a whimper, Lionel Messi failed to drag his team through a tense, nervy final, and Neymar's chance to stake his claim as one of the best in the world was going swimmingly until his injury and, yes, that 7-1. So, what have we got?
Well, we got the Germans. It is, really, a little difficult to criticize a World Cup for not seeming like a World Cup when the Germans win. And if a team has transformed over the tournament, grown into it and revealed to us something we weren't aware of, it's them. This is much the same side as in 2010 -- a new, radically-different Germany side that was about possession, flair, with young talent filling the ranks. No more perms, no more leg-breaking tackles, no more all-white teams. Many of them were even sexually attractive! It was a bold new world, but it wasn't quite time in 2010.
In 2014, it looks at first glance that they may finally have triumphed. But look a bit closer. Toni Kroos, an elegant playmaker transformed to box-to-box marauder of whom a co-commentator is likely to say "he can hit them." Bastian Schweinsteiger still in the side. Miroslav Klose somehow still looking like the biggest goal threat. Thomas Müller emerging as a player who will go down in World Cup history through possessing almost no skillset beyond a particular cruelty of finishing. Mario Götze is supposed to be exciting, but if there's a more German way to win a World Cup than rippling the side netting with a supremely-clean contact on the ball while falling over then we're not aware of it.
So, as everybody looked from Götze, to Klose, to Kroos, to Schweinsteiger, one horrible thought will have dawned on them: This isn't the new, young, sexy Mannschaft! This is the same bunch of soulless automatons marching forward and tackling everything in sight and scoring from 25 yards as they always have been! (I mean, just look at the photo we chose to accompany this article.)
More on Germany's win
More on Germany's win
But it was a process, only finally completed in the final. Germany looked out of sorts at the start of the tournament, but they soon found themselves in the old groove and got going again. Some initial bizarre Guardiola-esque experimentation quickly gave way until Joachim Löw blinked at the prospect of a quarter-final against France and decided to play everybody in their proper positions again. From that moment, Germany were suddenly favourites, and after producing probably the most incredible result in the history of the tournament, it's hard to claim they don't deserve it.
Perhaps, in an age when the ironic 4-4-2 is a legitimate formation to play, this is the real way that reactionary football works. Don't try to play the systems of old, or focus on past players. Just live up to every national stereotype possible, rely on what you know, and you'll come good. But while this World Cup feels like a hastily-written sequel, it's probably likely to have a sequel of its own -- this was a great achievement, but is it really the future face of football?
Plenty of teams will feel the tournament arrived in a period of transition for them. Germany could argue the same, but if they win in Russia too, it may not be a team that resembles this one. We're still waiting for the young, thrilling and exciting Germany side to emerge, but hats off to the old robotic Teutonic specimens of xenophobic daydreams. It's 2014, and it's still winning World Cups.