Daire O’Driscoll discusses the feeling in Germany as they enter the latter stages of the World Cup with the burden of a favourites tag threatening to take its toll.
The average Berliner might know who Bertolt Brecht is. A select few might have wandered to the Ensemble’s theatre straddling the banks of the river Spree to see a play from Brecht and even fewer would know what it means to be engaging in Brechtian theatre.
Brechtian drama is characterised by self reflection as opposed to empathy. One should not identify emotionally with the character or action before them, rather the viewer should engage in rational self-reflection and gain a critical view of what is on stage. Football is theatre and there is no greater stage than the World Cup.
The typical football fan is far from rational and loyalty to something (or as we have seen this week a la Suarez; someone) almost always clouds the judgement of the fan.
Forget leg breakers, forget headbutts, a bite is something incredibly visceral and animalistic; meant to cause harm. The ban is severe, but rightly so. However this article isn’t about Suarez or the bite, rather the sense of anticipation around the German team in Brazil.
Germans have been here before. Germany are the one of the most successful teams at major tournaments over the past 24 years. That period has brought with it one World Cup and one European Championship but no silverware since Klinsy and Berti Vogts were successful in England some 18 years ago.
Three World Cup semi finals, one World Cup Final, one European championship final and two Euro semis later and the feeling that Germany are favourites to win Brazil 2014 is all too familiar.
The enthusiastic craze that swept through Germany in 2002, 2006 and 2008 has dissipated; replaced by a nervous disposition and a tense belief that heartbreak is only 90 minutes away.
Germans expect to beat Algeria, probably rightly so. But a quarter-final against neighbours France is a potential stumbling block.
This World Cup campaign is comparable to Brechtian theatre. The time of emotional investment and identification with the team has gone. Heartbreak and disappointment has made sure of that Germans can manage their expectations of the national team that is long overdue a major triumph.
Germany must prove on Monday that they mean business. After a thrilling win over Portugal and two laboured performances against the weaker teams in the group, USA and Ghana, the team needs to reignite the passion that has characterised their previous campaigns.
Germany can win the tournament but football doesn’t always work out like that.
Daire O’Driscoll, Pundit Arena.