We did it in 2010 so why not again? The World Cup final is not, as we all know, as important, say, as MUFC v SAFC or SAFC v WBA were last season, or indeed a season-deciding match featuring Sunderland Ladies or the reserves. But it’s been, on the whole a grand tournament, and we are proud to present the first of our two Brazil 2014 ‘Who are You?’s. James Brock* is an American with whom I worked in Abu Dhabi. he is much-travelled, as that would suggest, and spent part of his early life in Germany. He is an out-and-out supporter of the national team (while also sparing some patriotic allegiance for the USA) …
Salut! Sunderland: You are naturally a supporter of the United States first, but what is an American doing also rooting for Germany?
James: Actually, my first team is Die Mannschaft (Germany). I lived in Germany and attended high school there, and played for a club team and for my American school. I have written a bit about the genesis of my love and passion for the German side here: http://jamesabrock.com/2014/06/12/man-and-woman-cannot-live-on-food-alone-one-must-have-fussball/
Do you speak German and do other aspects of German life and culture fascinate you?
I do speak German, and Germany changed me as a human being. Living there taught me to expect excellence and order, to strive for it, and to, unfortunately, have little tolerance for the absence of those things. I love wine, and went to high school in the Pfalz, which produces some of the world’s best Rieslings. In addition, beer is one of my favorite libations, and I don’t think I need to tell your readers about the excellent quality of German beers.
At what stage of Brazil 2014 did you decide it was winnable for Germany? Or does it just go back to that old Gary Lineker quote about football being a game played by two teams of 11 in which Germany win?
Since the late 1970s Germany has been, to me, an invincible team. In every match since then I have not expected them to lose, and always expect them to win. I felt from the beginning of the tournament that Germany could win the trophy.
And at club level, I presume it would be Bayern Munich every time for you? How closely do you follow the Bundesliga?
I am a big fan of the Bundesliga, but my club is not Bayern München, it is FC Kaiserslautern. (I do support Bayern in European competitions.) FCK is a storied Bundesliga team with a passionate fan base and a great stadium. It is called the Betzenberg, and I spent many a day and night in the stands. My ticket cost 5 Marks at the time, and that small sum gave me such joy, and the chance to see the team knock Real Madrid out of the Cup, Elton John in the stands during a match against Watford, and great players like Briegel, Brehme, Klose, and Ballack, all of whom played for the Red Devils. They are and always will be my club team.
Germany have had a strange World Cup, emphatic against Portugul then a few stutters , disciplined rather than exhilarating against France, unstoppable in the semi. Explain!
I am not worried about Germany’s form in Brazil thus far. They have been to four consecutive semifinals and the final will be their eight appearance in the ultimate match. They do what they need to win. Sometimes they do it with aplomb, other times they do it with efficiency. I will take the wins no matter how they come — though I do prefer the Beautiful Game.
Neuer looks as good as any keeper at the tournament but who else has really made the difference in getting Germany to the final?
I will state that Neuer is the top keeper in the world. Germany always has great keepers, going back to Sepp Maier and Harald Schumacher [ouch – Patrick Battiston] , and through to Oliver Kahn. As for other players at this tournament, Hummels is having a great time, and his goals have been good ones. Müller is a gem, and he is destined to break Klose’s World Cup scoring record in 2018. Lahm has been his usual world-class self, and Khedira is back on track after his knee injury. Kroos is perfect, and has scored some great goals in Brazil.
How important is it to have an accomplished coach and what are Joachim Löw’s most impressive qualities?
I think Loew’s greatest quality was his willingness to embrace change, as he began doing when he was Klinsmann’s assistant. He never hesitates to bring in new blood, fully supports his players and staff, and always looks good doing it.
You share my contempt for diving and playacting. Would you also agree it’s a particular shame when truly gifted players – eg Robben, Suarez, Muller, Ronaldo and, though absent from Brazil, Bale – indulge in it as well as the limited ones who feel the need to compensate for lack of technique?
I detest diving. When I played I never took a dive, and I admire players — Messi comes to mind — who push on despite the tackles. The Robben example is a perfect one: he is a supremely gifted player, and should be much more respected, but his dramatic flopping sours everyone. FIFA must crack down.
Give me your assessment of the 2014 World Cup so far, the highlights and the moments you’d rather forget
I have been watching the World Cup since 1982, and this one is right up there among the best — I would say that along with 1982 it is the best. The US had a great run, and I would say that, with Germany’s dismantling of Brazil, count as the highlights to me thus far. Oh yes, I will add Klose’s breaking of the scoring record. He is one of my favorite players, and is a real gentleman to boot. However, on Sunday, when Germany lifts the trophy, I will be crying tears of joy and pride, so that will be the highlight.
If not already dealt with, what is your impression of the state of English football and, this being a quite different thing, the Premier League?
It is known that I am not a fan of English football. There are several reasons for my aversion, one of them being the attitude of many English fans, behavior I have observed over the decades. In addition, so many of the players, at least for the past 15 years or so, are unlikable. I can no longer be gleeful about the national team’s failures, because they have passed into the territory of pitiable, but I do take joy in seeing them squirm and falter. As for the Premier League, I follow the teams on which Americans play, but the league as a whole does not appeal to me, mainly because I think it has sold its soul to monied outsiders, some of whom are suspect when it comes to ethics. I cannot stand Man City for that reason.
A few Americans latch on to Sunderland – I hesitate to say “support” though some would say they do – because of Jozy Altidore. Wretched season for us, heartbreaking early injury in Brazil; what do you make of him?
I think he is a good holding forward, strong. He scored many goals for his team in Holland. But I would not buy him if I was an owner.
* Closing stages of voting for the finalists of your choice:
Describe how you and where you will watch the final
Ah, the final. I will be watching it with Angela Shah, who has been very gracious in her support of Germany. She likes Loew, and though she is also a supporter of France, will I am sure be happy for me if Germany wins the trophy this year. We will be serving a nice dry Riesling and a Weissbier, and enjoying some great sausages. (We are still deciding between watching it at home or joining in with the crowds out somewhere.) [And Monsieur Salut says a special bonjour to Angela, with whom he also worked in Abu Dhabi]
What will be the score?
Germany will win the final 3-1.
* James Brock on himself:
I love food and cooking, and I love football. I started play in Florida, then my family moved to Germany and the real education began. I speak about this in the blog post to which I earlier linked, but I cannot overstate the importance of Germany to my education and formation, in football and other walks of life. Journalism has been my money-earning profession for a long time, but I am now formulating a second act, one that will involve food and cooking and wine.
Interview: Colin Randall
*** Our friends and competition sponsors at campotretro.com were quick off the mark with post-semi news on their clobber. This is how they put it:
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