World Cup Soapbox: bring on the Germans – or maybe not


England v Germany. Not a sporting occasion that always brings out the best in Her Majesty’s Tabloid Press. Pete Sixsmith dreads a deluge of red-top Germanophobia, but also wonders whether our boys can throw off the sluggishness that threatens England’s progress …

Sitting here, I am surrounded by the efforts of 300+ young people in their recent GCSE History exam.

A number of the questions on that paper rake over Britain’s stormy relationship with Germany in the 20th Century, a relationship that is about to be tested again at Bloemfontein on Sunday.

The little mites have been tested on the Anglo-German Naval Race, Hitler’s occupation of Austria and Dunkirk, while our footballers will be tested by Mesut Ozil, Philip Lahm and Lukas Podolski. Some of the candidates have not done so well in their tests with the Germans and I fear that the footballers may well be heading for a similar fate as the student who confused the evacuation from Dunkirk with the evacuation of children from towns and cities and had children filing off the beaches with their labels and suitcases on to paddle steamers. No marks, I’m afraid, and he did not enter the next level.

I saw both games today and the difference between the sides in Group C and those in Group D was interesting. England probably deserved to win, against a country with two million people and 500 registered professional footballers, but didn’t we make hard work of it?

There were some positives that could be taken. Defoe gave the forward line the mobility it craved (although he disappeared after 55 minutes) and he took his goal in Bent like fashion. Milner played well and put in some telling crosses. Cole (A) got forward and defended effectively, but there was not a great deal of crispness or thrust about the team.

Rooney turned in a marginally better performance, but he does far too much and gets in the way of other players. There was a sluggishness about the performance that, if repeated on Sunday, could mark the end of the tournament for Don Fabio and his boys.

Towards the end, as Slovenia pushed forward for an equaliser, some of the defending was panicky and reminiscent of what we often see at the Stadium. It took a fine block from Upson to prevent Slovenia from levelling with a few minutes left and had he not made that challenge, it would have been goodbye to South Africa and hello to a pelting with rotten fruit on the return to Heathrow.

I felt for Slovenia at the end, thwarted by a last minute goal by the weird Landon Donovan. His comments after the game were typically American (“If you do things the right way, you get your reward” and then he started blubbing, for God’s sake), but they kept on until the end and I suppose their resilience was rewarded.

On to the evening games and I really enjoyed Germany v Ghana. Both sides played crisp, attacking football and it was settled by a magnificent strike from the aforementioned Mesut Ozil. They are an interesting mixture of youth and experience who could unsettle the creaking bones of JT and his little chums.

One player whose bones were creaking was John Mensah. Once again, he was a rock in the middle of the Black Stars defence, never straying too far from the middle but making sure that he got his foot in whenever it was needed. He made one tackle as Germany broke away towards the end and you just knew he was going to win the ball. Such a good player, I would love to see him in a red and white striped shirt with Tombola on the front next season.

Well, I suppose we will have four days of allegedly humourous headlines about wars, sausages, chopped cabbage and penalty shoot outs. Those of us who cringe at this kind of thing will keep a low profile and hope that Anglo-German relations have been maintained for when Mr Horan and I visit Hoffenheim in August. The new season approaches.

13 thoughts on “World Cup Soapbox: bring on the Germans – or maybe not”

  1. Jeremy, your latent Nazi petticoat is showing, getting drunk and throwing chairs is unacceptable we all know that, but extermination of six million jews should not be forgotten (least we forget) and the Germans are nice people now but that doesn’t wipeout the atrocities of the last century, judge by the same standards or do not comment. I have never in my life felt ashamed to be English. Why do you think that is?

  2. “If a man fells embarrassed to be German there must be a problem somewhere, the humming of the Dambusters tune is hardly reason for national shame.”

    It’s the connotations of what lies behind it. Xenophobia of the worst kind, and ridiculously outdated and outmoded concepts and stereotypes of people from a close European neighbour. My views on the behaviour and tendencies of a significant slice of English footballers isn’t based on the evidence of what happened this week. The England support was magnificent during the last game, but that doesn’t wipe out the notorious events of the last three decades.

  3. If a man fells embarrassed to be German there must be a problem somewhere, the humming of the Dambusters tune is hardly reason for national shame. Yes I agree in the past England supports have given us all reason to be ashamed and we did not hide from it, things were done to formulate change. England played and won in PE the fans were brilliant and many of them are still here, the Germans played and lost and the few of them that were here didn’t clothe thmselves in glory. We all know the reason for the German embarrassment global domination and genocide, they still feel it and maybe they should, but this is just a game of football, that will be played and one team will progress and the other one will go home. Let’s just hope it is the champions of freedom and democracy.

  4. Meanwhile, Paraguay/Sunderland move on after a very dour game against New Zealand. The Kiwis did everything they had to do except create one single scoring chance and capitalize on it. It didn’t make for entertaining football from either side. But all credit to them for finishing ahead of Italy in their group — this a team from a country that doesn’t even have a professional league.

  5. Aaargh! You’ve given it away! Just as Italy did. They only started playing in the last 20 minutes. Marchetti really should have saved Vittek’s first goal and Koppunek’s showed how laughable the Italian defence was.
    I wonder what Pete will make of Quagliarella’s tears at the end.

  6. It’s not very often that I disagree with Pete, but on this occasion disagree I must, particularly about Rooney and Milner. For me, Milner had a decent first half in which he produced a lovely cross for the goal. Second half he became invisible along with Rooney, who despite a playing environment which gave him the opportunity to shine, he took and provided what was for me an absolutely appalling performance. For the last two years there have been serious questions about Rooney’s capability at international level. To my mind there are no unanswered questions after watching him last night. England should start with Crouch and Defoe against the Germans; but Capello won’t go down that route now.

    Having disagreed with Pete, I can strongly agree with Keith’s comments. Germany caught Australia completely cold. Had the fixtures come out differently then the Australians would have proved a lot tougher to dismantle. Australia were a lot better than their showing against the Germans suggested and the result flattered the old enemy. I would say that England should have nothing to fear against the Germans who looked laboured and short of ideas against Ghana (who I think would cause more problems to a slow central pairing in the back four). At the moment though, there is little to stir English hearts. As a team they don`t appear to be particularly motivated to play in a World Cup. They have at least avoided complete humiliation by virtue of Defoe`s goal. Losing to the Germans will not produce feelings of shame, although the build up is likely to produce a lot of anti-German hysteria such as Pete mentioned, which is not only uncalled for, but is unnecessary and embarrassing.

    As an Englishman who has travelled extensively throughout the country, worked with German people and has friends there, the sound of `The Dambusters`theme originating from the terraces will just make me cringe. A very good German friend of mine who is the same age as me has told me about how embarrassed he used to feel as a boy and young man, simply because he was born a German. Most of the events involving football between England and the Germans have caused me to feel embarrassed about being English; and that has little if anything to do with results.

  7. As for the U.S., it would have been a sin and a shame to see them eliminated yesterday because of another unfairly disallowed goal. (I know Jeremy disagrees with me on the fairness of the first one but yesterday’s was clearly legitimate.) They’ve worked hard and relentlessly and deserve their place in the last 16.
    Donovan’s “do things the right way…get your reward” comment may sound corny to English ears more accustomed to semi-literate outbursts of Rooney, but it’s a far better attitude than the “we’re here; give it to us” entitlement of so many of the more prominent sides. And why shouldn’t Donovan — weird? What’s weird about him? — shed a few honest tears? This is a huge breakthrough for the Americans and, having seen the team come so close to being unfairly eliminated, it must have hugely emotional for all of them.
    Here in Canada, we’re very jaundiced about the United States. We hate being lumped together with them; their country is a very different kettle of fish and we like to keep our distance, spiritually if not physically. But we’re seeing a few more American flags flying from cars on the streets. It’s not because Barack Obama is coming in for the absurd and frighteningly expensive G20 summit; it’s because the U.S.A. is proving itself worthy at the World Cup. And that’s worth cheering — and even weeping — about.

  8. Bill theGermans were ordinary against Serbia and Ghana, the Aussie had an off day which cost them dearly, but we had an off day against Algeriia than didn’t cost us. Time will tell but I feel England have the quality to advance, the support will not be matched its almost like a home game and that has value.

  9. The Germans looked WAY better than the English yesterday. So did the Ghanaians. There again, so did the Americans. And support is such a fickle thing.

  10. We have nothing to fear with the Germans, we may have spluttered and stalled but the engine is now running. The Germans looked good against the Ozzies but since then have not risen above mediocre. England have great support and the team are beginning to get there heads down. The oldest travelling supporter in PE yesterday was a 91 year old Sunderland supporter.

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