The pre-match stories centred around, in descending order: The Austria – West Germany game from the 1982 World Cup; The relationship between ‘Klinsi’ and ‘Jögi’; and Luis Suarez. Kevin Prince Boateng being sent home from the Ghana squad hardly registered at all, but then, the Ghana game was so last week…
To those of you with no knowledge of what happened in the 1982 World Cup (to be honest (and I wasn’t even alive then), I only heard about this since I moved to Germany), I’m happy to explain – thanks for asking. In the final games of Group 2 (no letters in those days, you see), Algeria played Chile, and West Germany played Austria. Before the games, Austria had four points (two points were still awarded for victories) after wins against Chile and Algeria, and West Germany and Algeria each had two points after one loss and one win each (Algeria had beaten West Germany in the first group game). In their final game, Algeria beat Chile 3-2, and then had to wait a day for the West Germany – Austria game, to find out if their four points would be enough to qualify. The Germans went 1-0 up against Austria after ten minutes, and after that, not much of note happened. A West German win by one or two goals would ensure the two neighbours would qualify for the next round at the expense of Algeria.
Which they did, to some controversy. So, if you’ve ever wondered why all the final group games are played at the same time, blame the Germans (and Austrians).
Why was this even a topic of conversation, though? Why, because Germany and the USA only needed a draw to ensure both would qualify. And their coaches are friends, what with the Löw-Doktor having been Jürgen Klinsmann’s assistant while he was Germany manager, before taking over the reins himself. To be fair to the Germans, though, despite constantly mentioning this, they were clearly embarrassed by the goings-on of 1982 (‘Der Schande von Gijon’ – the shame of Gijon). The tension in the media was palpable: everyone hoped for a German victory for an additional reason to the usual – they love people liking their team, so they didn’t want to jeopardise that.
For the game, the missus decided we should watch it with some lads from my football team (and others) in some kind of church-outreach youth centre in the heart of Berlin. I rushed from work, and quickly realised that it was a wise decision – anyone who’s ever tried to get a space by the hotel pool in Spain can imagine how it was. There were six people inside, but about 30 of the 40 seats already had jumpers or bags on them. This was further complicated as the missus somehow accumulated a few additional waifs and strays who we had to struggle to find places for at kick-off. More importantly, though, the beer was cheap.
The first half was enjoyable and frustrating in equal measure. Germany seemed to attack only through the flanks, with no Klose-like presence to take advantage of the dangerous crosses that no one seemed able to reach. Still the Yanks defended well (if a little last-ditch), and broke well in a very fast but controlled manner. Still, it was probably quite hard to play with the ball squirting around the pitch like an inappropriate comment.
Speaking of inappropriate, this Jögi Löw-in (do you see what I did there?) is certainly a very troubling thing. No doubt, he’s a reasonably attractive middle-aged man (and probably in good shape), but these long and lingering shots of him in his tight, soaked shirt, or brushing his wet hair away from his face are a bit too much for me to bear. Fair enough, we can’t equate Roy Hodgson to the Löw-Doktor, but he’s also no <insert name of acceptable, attractive middle-aged man here>.
The second half was mainly lost on me. A few seconds after Miroslav Klose came on, the reception dropped out. I checked with one of the lads, and apparently this happens often when it rains. So, aside from (somehow) a break for 20 seconds when Müller scored (from outside the box! He can do that, too!) the signal was lost for over twenty minutes. People were watching on their phones, and most stayed there hoping it would come back soon, rather than gamble by going somewhere else. Like I say, the beer was cheap…
I honestly thought USA might equalise right at the end, but both Lahm and Klose(!) tracked the final runner and threw themselves in the way of the shot. I’m a huge Klose fan because he’s a grafter (as well as a good player), and I think that sums him up perfectly.
So, despite the result, both teams are through, and there was no hint of controversy or shame this time.
So, who will USA play next? Belgium. And that should be an interesting and open game.
And the Germans? Algeria, of course. You couldn’t make it up. And they have a score to settle with the Germans…
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