- 5 Jul 06, 12:40 PM
DORTMUND - I said on Tuesday that I did not want Germany to win the World Cup.
As I sat in the stadium in Dortmund on Tuesday evening I was stunned by the manner in which my wish came true.
As the whistles rang out for the end of extra-time I was fully expecting another superb display of penalty kicks by the German team.
What I did not see coming was the sucker punch of an Italian goal that left hardly any opportunity for a riposte, but just time enough for an Italian second on the counter attack.
It was a cruel, cruel way to lose and for all of those seemed to think that I somehow had it in for the Germans - rest assured that I felt no real pleasure at the manner of the exit of Jurgen Klinsmann's team.
In a bar afterwards Ricco and I talked to a German bloke called Steve - more on him later - and he insisted that as Englishmen we must have been delighted.
But the truth is that I can emphathise with the Germans - if nothing else being English means you are fully versed in the heartbreaking exit from a major tournament.
At least Germany played some of the finest attacking football in the tournament - and always with a real zest and spirit.
Compared to England's limp and sorry campaign there is at least solace to be found in the way their team did give it a real go, made sure that they would not die wondering.
The German fans inside the ground on Tuesday were fantastic too - noisy, passionate and desperate for victory.
They remained for a long time after the final whistle, perhaps in shock. The players likewise stood around as though unsure what to do.
Klinsmann, who for such a young coach seems infinitely more decisive than Svan-Goran Eriksson, walked around the pitch lifting all his players to their feet. It sent out the message that they can be proud.
A journalist called Wolf walked up to me and asked as though looking for affirmation of his opinion: "Italy were the better team weren't they?"
He was German and even within seconds of defeat had rationally concluded that the better team had won.
Ricco and I went go find something to eat and met Steve, who turned out to be a record producer from Hamburg. He soon moved on from talking about the match to telling us about The Game.
The Game in this case being a record he has produced that really should have been the World Cup anthem but for something to do with Fifa and trademarks.
Euro 2008 watch out.
The final twist came when we tried to get a taxi. Our campsite is way out of walking range and the last bus leaves at 11pm - before the match had even finished.
On Saturday, upon returning from Gelsenkirchen, we had no problem, last night it was agony.
It took me about 30 minutes bfeore I finally flagged down a cab only to discover that Saturday's 22 euro fare had mysteriously increased to 70 euros. Strange that.
I told him to get lost and soon regretted my decision.
Ages later I found one for 40 euros. Ricco was on the other side of the junction trying to stop cabs going the other way. As I waited for Ricco to make his way over the driver started yelling "snell, snell, snell" at me. Alright mate, calm down.
As the taxi pulled away he shouted "money, money, money" while rubbing his fingers.
We asked for a receipt and were given two for 20 euros with different dates on them and told that if we wanted a cab the next day - no problem and it will be a lot cheaper.
The centre of Dortmund was littered with the evening's detritus - and more than a few fans who slept where they had fallen.
It reminded me of Gelsenkirchen on Saturday - and also of how I have come to realise that the German and English people are so very similar.
But as with many friends of my mine who support rivals teams - it does not mean I want them to win at football.
Football for me is about rivalry, banter, discussing games over a few beers down the pub. It is a game, entertainment - it is not what wholly defines a person or a nation.
Liking someone - or a country - but not their team is surely not so strange?
Or am I wrong here? If I have come to love Germany and its people does that mean I now have to want its team to win? Personally, I don't think so.