The German language has a peculiar capacity for encompassing complex situations in just one phrase or word. A language that many, ignorantly or not, claim to be ugly and overly guttural can often be so sweepingly perfect. The most famous of all these words is, of course, Schadenfreude; roughly translated as pleasure at the discomfort of others.
Having seen the nations that knocked them out of the past four major tournaments dispatched home early, namely Italy and Spain, alongside perennial football enemies such as Portugal and England, schadenfreude is very much in the air in Berlin. The second less well known idiom is Fritz Walter Wetter, so named after the 1954 German World Cup winning captain Fritz Walter, who, as legend has it, excelled in the rain. And it was in the Fritz Walter Wetter of Recife, a city languishing in its rainy season, that two German coaches went head to head, as Germany took on the USA.
Much had been made of this tie as a potential 90 minutes of both sides seeing out the clock and not taking any risks or threatening to entertain in possibly the most exciting World Cup ever. Germany’s starting line up, which saw Loew dropping Götze and Khedira and bringing in Schweinsteiger and Podolski, suggested that Loew had goals on his mind. Germany started the brighter of the two teams but the constant shifting of the ball from right to left with no real penetration had rings of the Ghana game 5 days previous. What was interesting to note was how high both Boateng and Höwedes were playing, pushing up from the wide defensive positions to find themselves mostly ahead of Mesut Ozil. Klinsman had set up his USA team rather defensively, like Ghana, inviting Germany onto them. The difference between the USA and Ghana though is pace. The “Amies” as they are colloquially known in German football circles lack any form of pace up front, so catching the second fastest team in the tournament (after the Netherlands) on the break was going to be a tall order.
The rain was having some effect on players from both teams as Neuer and Howard seemed to be finding it difficult to deal with the greasy ball. Apart from two chances inside the first 45, one from Müller and one from Özil, neither side looked particularly clinical. Germany, who were finding space behind the US defence were crossing balls to nobody in the six yard box. The game was screaming for Miroslav Klose. And sure enough at half time Joachim Loew brought on the all time leading goal scorer at the World Cup for Podolski, who might feel hard done by, offering relatively more than his Arsenal teammate Mesut Özil did inside the first 45 minutes. Just 4 minutes after the restart Klose threatened from one of the plethora of crosses whizzing across Tim Howard’s six yard area by Höwedes and Boateng. Klinsman, often criticised as being nothing more than a cheer leader rather than tactical genius, had evidently instructed his players to sit deeper and deeper and try to catch Germany on the break. This tactic eventually handed Germany their goal. A shot parried by Tim Howard found its way to Thomas Mller on the edge of the box. Müller had plenty of time to pick his spot and curl a delicate shot past the Everton goalkeeper. That goal brings the FC Bayern player to 4 goals for this tournament. Even more incredibly that was Müller’s 9th goal in 10 games at the world cup, which is more than all English players together at the last two World Cups.
The game was a niggly affair on the whole. Jermaine Jones could count himself as lucky to have gone through the entire game without a booking as he seemed intent on kicking Bastian Schweinsteiger at almost any opportunity that presented itself. The goal effectively killed the game. Germany seemed content with the 1-0; while the USA had shown next to nothing in attack all evening. Excluding a Clint Dempsey header on 91 minutes, the game petered out rather uneventfully. The game could be seen as the proverbial “1-0 away to Stoke on a rainy Tuesday night” for Germany, they progress as group winners where they will most likely face Algeria. With heavy hitters such as Spain, Italy and Portugal taking no further part in this World Cup, Germany could well see this as an opportunity to finally reclaim Jules Rimet, 24 years since they did it in 1990. The optimistic excitement after the win over Portugal has ebbed away somewhat, replaced by a nervous tension; an anticipation and expectation of this team. Maybe, just maybe, this is their year.
Daire O’Driscoll, Pundit Arena.