Greatness awaits Germany’s latest World Cup elite
After 24 years, this is the country’s best chance for glory once again
It’s not difficult to work out who I’ll be supporting in tonight’s World Cup final in Brazil between Germany and Argentina. Though I don’t think my paraphernalia and accidental German footwear do my delight at my team reaching the World Cup final any justice. Despite this being the fifth time Germany have been in a final in my lifetime, I’ve experienced the sweetness of victory only once.
When Germany beat Argentina in Rome on July 8, 1990, Adamski and Milli Vanilli were in the charts, people wore stonewashed jeans and cowboy boots, while mullets and perms dominated heads. Every male in Germany had a ronnie, and yet I still get goosebumps thinking about it. I’ll never forget that moment when Andreas Brehme scored the penalty in the 85th minute and everyone around me became ecstatically happy, young and old, rich and poor. It’s so elusive and special that if you experience it in your lifetime you can count yourself very lucky.
It’s not a feeling you easily forget because there is nothing you can compare it to. To look around and see happy faces everywhere is the rarest thing. Even now, 60 years after Germany won their first World Cup in Switzerland in 1954, people still get emotional when they talk about it. That moment when Helmut Rahn scored the winning goal in a 3-2 victory against a seemingly unbeatable Hungarian team on a rain-sodden day in Bern, Switzerland, a downtrodden nation ravaged by war and guilt was lifted out of its depression and brought back on to a world stage.
“We were rank outsiders. Everyone told us to pack our bags and go home after we were beaten by the world class Hungarians 8-3 in the first round, but we pulled together as a team and demonstrated German traits like Siegeswillen (a will to succeed) and Mannschaftsgeist (team spirit) to become the Wunder von Bern,” said Horst Eckl, a player on the winning team.
“To this day people still come up to me in tears and give me heartfelt thanks for what we did that day. It’s incredible.”
Most of the current players on both teams were infants when we last won the World Cup as West Germany, while many weren’t even alive when Argentina and a sublime Maradona beat us in front of 115,000 people in the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City on June 29, 1986, so they’re in for a treat. Whoever wins tonight, will see a lifelong dream come true surrounded by their team-mates and peers while the world looks on. It will be magnificent for them, whether the game is boring or sublime.
Despite much talk from pundits criticising the state of play and the lack of a super power, I think we were privy to a great World Cup. The naysayers would pontificate that it’s not the same without one team dominating the sport, but I would beg to differ. I was delighted at Spain’s early exit. They won three tournaments in a row and that’s enough. You’re not going to get more out of any team. They’ll regroup and come back in 20 years or so and for now we get to see great matches with highly-unpredictable results.
I loved watching USA, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Algeria, Belgium and others. The Germany vs Ghana match was fantastic, despite Germany displaying weaknesses, it’s much more fun to watch. Eamon Dunphy said football was in decline, but sure he was saying that years ago. When you watch some of the matches from bygone World Cups, you’d die of boredom.
He said football in Brazil was dead and buried after the Germans destroyed their souls on the pitch in Belo Horizonte last Tuesday, but I think there will be a huge overhaul like there was in Germany after a diabolical European Championship campaign in 2000 and Brazil will come back. It’s cyclical. When the Germans humiliated a Brazilian side, which has a market value of €507 million – the highest of any team in the World Cup – the world watched in awe.
Gary Lineker summed it up nicely: “In nigh on half a century of watching football, that’s the most extraordinary, staggering, bewildering game I’ve ever witnessed.”
My heart did go out to Brazilian fans, to whom football is everything, none more so than Clovis Fernandez, who made headlines across the globe when he was seen hugging a replica World Cup after the crushing defeat. The lifelong fan has been following his team since the 1990s and calls himself Brazil’s 12th man. In an act of true sportsmanship, he gave his beloved trophy to a German fan, wishing them the best of luck and that Germany should win the World Cup.
It is moments such as these that make the World Cup finals special. Despite the ridiculous corruption, protests, biting and diving, there were touching moments too, like when Greek player Georgios Samaras offered to fly 11-year-old fan Jay Beatty from Lurgan, who has Down’s syndrome, to Brazil to watch the Greeks take on Costa Rica.
It’s been a grandiose four weeks and today one billion people will bear witness to this old-school decider. We want to win badly, but so do the Argentinians. Lionel Messi wants to elevate himself to the top echelons of eternal sporting greatness and stand side by side with Maradona. It could go either way and be a belter or a snorefest. We’ll have to wait and see which team will take home the €35m prize money, though I doubt any player playing today is in it for the cash. Much of the winnings go to the development of football in the winner’s country.
Historically, we have the advantage after annihilating Argentina 4-0 in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in 2010 and beating them on penalties in Germany in 2006 after which we lost to Italy in the closing minutes of extra-time in the semi-final. One of Germany’s darkest sporting hours. We’ve been there or thereabouts three times in a row now, so its time we just won the bloody thing again.
I predicted a Germany/Argentina final from the beginning, though I am biased and back Germany in every tournament. I informed Eamon Dunphy during a brief exchange that Germany were going to win the World Cup. He pitied me, saying there was no way that it was going to happen. Even Franz Beckenbauer agrees with me though. I just wish I could be there.
In 1990 I was too young to travel to Rome, but I remember a friend telling me he got into the stadium for free. He then saw his country win the World Cup. I guess sometimes you just have to be jealous. Anyone looking for a ticket for tonight’s game last minute could fork out €20,000. How times have changed. In the meantime, my flag and I promise to take victory very graciously.