Germany to win? I don't think so
- 4 Jul 06, 11:11 AM
DORTMUND - I'm not going to make many friends saying this but I do NOT want Germany to win the World Cup.
I've spoken to quite a few England fans over the last few days who have expressed the view that they would be happy to see Michael Ballack lift the World Cup trophy in Berlin on Sunday - and a few people on this blog have expressed a similar sentiment, not to mention my fellow bloggers Paul Armstrong and Paul Atherton.
Mandeep seems to be backing the Italians, Phil is just fuming it's not England getting in the party mood in Munich, while Celina seems to have been seduced by ex-France defender Desailly and his confidence in some of his old team-mates.
As for the Germans, the thrust of the argument seems to be that they've been so incredibly fantastic as a host nation that it would be no bad thing to see their team win on home soil.
I fully concur with the first part of the theory - Ricco and I have been around the country and have hardly a bad word to say about any of the Germans we have met.
In fact, their kindness, willingness to help and warmth for the English has really struck home - for me it is one of the major factors that I will take from my time here.
They seem to be without any of the malice that some English people still harbour towards them (though I think they quite enjoyed watching us lose on penalties) and I really believe that as a people they are not all that different to us.
In short, I have come to see the Germans in a new, refreshing and entirely positive light.
Does this mean I now want their football team to win? No chance.
On the train back from Gelsenkirchen on Saturday evening my eyes drifted aimlessly across the carriage.
I spotted an England shirt with one gold star above the badge. Seconds later I noticed a German shirt with three gold stars about the badge.
The thought occured to me that if they win this World Cup they are three victories ahead of us. Given we have only managed it once ever, it would make any footballing debate with a German even more futile than it is already.
And besides, if every time I went to a country of a major footballing rival I decided that because I liked the people I would back their team in the event of England's inevitable premature departure I could soon end up without any rivalries to get worked up about.
Football is about the excitement of playing a rival team, the spice that such a match adds and the increased desire for your team to emerge victorious.
Take that away and I think the game will be poorer for it. So I'm not crossing the German team off the list just yet.
Besides, I still vividly remember the empty, hollow feeling in 1990 and 1996. Andi Moeller strutting and preening across the turf at Wembley. It is what made England's 5-1 win in 2001 all the sweeter.
What I can take solace from in the 1990 and 1996 defeats is that we lost (albeit on penalties) to a quality team, packed with world-class players.
Each time Germany went on to win the tournament - we lost to a team that was arguably better than us.
Four years ago an average team reached the final and the current crop is hardly packed with top-quality world-class players.
It almost makes it worse that now, while England have failed with what is supposedly their best team in decades, the Germans are showing us how to win when, on paper, they're hardly brimming with talent.
Don't think for a moment think that I am trying to suggest that Jurgen Klinsmann's team has not played well here. They have, very well, but let us take Miroslav Klose as an example.
Klose was one of the top scorers at the last World Cup - with six goals - but then had two poor seasons with Kaiserslautern.
I'm told he has been impressive since moving to Werder Bremen two years ago and is clearly a very competent forward.
With five goals already at this World Cup he is very likely to be the top scorer at this tournament. A major, major honour for a player.
But top German strikers down the years - the likes of Klinsmann, Rudi Voeller, Oliver Bierhoff - quickly ended up in Italy. Why no such interest in Klose?
What I will concede about the current German team is that compared to previous generations they seem extremely likeable.
Klinsmann has been a popular figure in England for a long time and has kept me amused throughout the tournament by his selection of expertly tailored yet somehow slightly casual shirts.
With Oliver Kahn on the bench there is no longer anyone in the team that I truly despise and they play with a freedom and belief that has been genuinely exciting to watch.
And maybe if they win their semi-final and I find myself caught up in the emotion of it all I might start to waver.
But for the moment this (probably slightly bitter) English fan is sticking to his guns and hoping that someone, anyone, knocks them out (preferably on penalties).