Why Germany Can Win This World Cup
Brazil did not win the World Cup as host in 1950 – Uruguay did -- and I’m not at all sure Brazil can win this time, either.
Six hosts have won the championship in 19 World Cups. However, despite being the five-time champion, with a huge stock of talent, and a superb coach, Brazil will be playing at home, during the most heightened political atmosphere I have ever seen at the eight World Cups I covered.
There are always issues at a World Cup, but this is different. In a time of instant social media, a rising generation of Brazilians has identified futebol and FIFA and its deceptively loopy president Sepp Blatter as part of the problem in contemporary Brazil.
Building roads and stadiums and upgrading hotels and airports for rich tourists has been linked with rising bus fares, disruptions in the favelas, and other indignities of modern life. The land of the beautiful game is questioning its patrimony.
Does that matter to the outcome of the World Cup? The Brazilian players will be sequestered, but not immune to cell-phone calls from wives and girlfriends, perhaps relaying news that their aunt was tear-gassed in her neighborhood or their uncle was hit over the head by police while crossing a street.
As professional as they are, the Brazilian players will be aware of divided feelings in their own land. This cannot help the concentration needed to survive a seven-match marathon following the brutal European season most of them endure. The injuries are mounting for almost all teams.
So I think Brazil could have trouble. I’m not sure the home-continent advantage (no European team has ever won in South America) will work for Argentina or Uruguay, either. I doubt Luis Suarez can stay on keel for 90 minutes much less seven matches. And Lionel Messi is at his best getting passes from Andrés Iniesta at Barcelona, but that smooth playmaker plays for Spain in the World Cup.
What about the European squads? I love Spain. Who doesn’t, in this generation? It has brought passing and patience and brains to a heightened level. But Spain may have played one too many dog years in winning two Euros and one World Cup.
Among the other European powers, there is sometimes room for a different face in the semifinals – Turkey or Greece, lightning in a bottle, a decade ago; Belgium now, or maybe Portugal, but always Italy and now Spain have the muscle memory of playing deep into the World Cup. That is vital in the endurance contest. The Buffons and Piques have been there.
Remember the wonderful quip by the English captain Gary Lineker after losing to West Germany in 1990 in Italy?
“Football is a simple game; twenty-two men chase a ball for ninety minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”
Quite a compliment, under the circumstances. And perhaps relevant again.
Germany has been coming on since 2006 at home when the Mannschaft taught Germans to wave their flags and wear national jerseys and cheer in public. There is a straight line from Jürgen Klinsmann and Joachim Löw to Löw’s semifinalists in 2010 in South Africa to the new Deutschland 3.0 version this time.
The multi-ethnic and talented German squad is ready to win for reasons as tall as Schweinsteiger (Bastian) and as short as Lahm (Philip.) Germany has a good young keeper in Manuel Neuer and a terrific distributor in Mesut Özil, the first major German player from its large Turkish population, and Thomas Müller, plus Miroslav Klose, who scores goals better with the national team than his club, because he fits in so well, because the ball is often right there for him.
If this sounds like some old national stereotype, please excuse, but from admiring German squads over the decades, I think Germany has the talent and mental strength to go into Brazil, concentrate, and get through seven matches. Gary Lineker will be right, again.
6/8/2014 03:08:45 am
With Reuss injured, you still think that's the case?
6/8/2014 05:59:54 am
Honestly, I cannot judge the player. But my sense is that Germany is so deep, it can replace almost anybody.
6/8/2014 04:29:22 am
Germany is always strong, the Italians always start slowly and somehow are usually still around in the later stages. But this time I think the South Americans are going to be the story. And Spain, again. I too doubt whether Brazil has everything it needs to bring the Cup home. Did you see their labored performance against Serbia the other day? My dark horse is Uruguay, though logic would seem to dictate an Argentina-Brazil final. I was in the Maracana for a Brazil-Argentina friendly(if such a game can ever be considered a friendly), in 1998, a couple of months before the World Cup in France. Argentina 1, Brazil 0. It wasn't pretty. Argentina-Brazil would be a dream Final, but it might not be pretty this time either.
6/8/2014 07:12:54 am
George - Your World Cup book looks great - I'm putting it on my read list. I just wrote a review of your Stan Musial biography on my blog: http://joyce4books.wordpress.com/ and thought you would like to see it. I am a journalist/biographer too, and it really touched me.
6/8/2014 08:56:27 am
Joyce: What a lovely note. Thank you for finding my site...and my Musial book. As soon as the World Cup ends, and I start reading for pleasure again, I will get one of your books. In an extended family of people with Spencer as their middle or last names, maybe I will check out your Spencer guy. You'll see the autobiographical sections of my soccer book -- the stuff about being in Essen in 2006 on the anniversary of my aunt's trial...GV
6/9/2014 11:40:15 am
In an effort to make "8WC" as recognizeable as "CR7," I am happy to report that our family's copy (I know - I shoulda bought 2!) was back safely in Manaus this morning and should be in Natal any minute.
6/9/2014 12:55:54 am
There’s a lot in this exchange! Just some random thoughts stimulated by various points:
6/9/2014 01:12:02 am
Andy, thanks. I do a whole riff in the book about Young Beckham and Rooney. I think I ask: "What is it with these guys?" You and John both point out that Zidane was carded for striking out in 98 (stepped on a guy's head) and 2006 (Materazzi). And what about Leonardo elbowing Tab Ramos' eye socket in 94? In broad daylight?
6/9/2014 03:01:15 pm
6/9/2014 03:54:33 am
Thanks, George! I love sports, but I know baseball much more than soccer, although I am following this thread with much interest. All I can add is that 20 years ago this week, we flew from Germany to Dulles in DC with the German Soccer Team aboard. My son was wearing a World Cup shirt and the guys graciously signed it for him. Yah! A fun experience. Now I will fade out, Joyce
6/9/2014 04:06:53 am
Joyce, don't fade out. I have a modest little community that writes in to this site, and you seem to match the job description.
6/9/2014 03:54:22 am
I've only recently discovered comedian John Oliver on HBO. Last night he did his take on FIFA and it's cuttingly hilarious and brilliantly on-target: http://www.101greatgoals.com/blog/comedian-john-oliver-has-produced-the-most-awesome-rant-about-fifa-you-will-ever-see/
6/9/2014 04:11:18 am
lol Thanks, GV -- Enjoying and learning! JL
6/9/2014 10:41:29 am
Eric Adelson of Yahoo Sports recently posted and optimistic article, "Group of Death Not Looking As Daunting for US just Days Before the World Cup" Is this just wishfull thinking or are the soccer stars beginning to align?
6/9/2014 10:51:28 am
John Schaefer of New Sounds on WNYC (just had a nice interview from him) is the second person to say how much the loss of Reus could hurt Germany. John's been watching World Cups longer than I have. Look, third game...second string...don;t need the points. It could happen.
6/9/2014 10:58:22 am
Just remember Germany vs. Austria, 1982. I'm not saying anything that blatant would ever be allowed to occur now(after all, we are talking about a game, not the selection of a WC host country!). If Germany is already through and wants to rest some players, who knows? But somehow I have to believe that Joachim Löw wants to beat Jürgen and will put out the best team available that day, at least until they are up by a couple of goals.
6/9/2014 11:48:54 am
I saw that match on TV at Wimbledon, en route to Barcelona. What a farce.
6/9/2014 02:41:10 pm
The Germans were known to play a tough soccer without much beauty. And yet, were always in the finals. Now they are playing beautiful soccer, added a strong tactic. I agree with you, the Germans will win this Cup.
6/9/2014 03:20:08 pm
Funny how one can have more than one nationality for football.
6/10/2014 08:07:40 am
6/10/2014 09:25:14 am
Dear PC: I can only quote the noted aero-physicist Bruce Arena, when he was asked about the new ball being used in 2002. (Everybody hated that one, too.)
6/11/2014 04:00:17 am
6/10/2014 02:44:16 pm
Keepers liked the balls of the late 40's and into the 50's. They were leather with the stitches recessed varying amounts. Gloves were not worn back then and your fingers could get a good grip on the seams.
6/10/2014 02:52:19 pm
My friend Alan was/is a keeper -- for Lehigh in late 50's, and now as a teacher of the position. GV
6/11/2014 11:50:52 am
My friend and I attended the Brazil-Portugal friendly at Gillette Stadium on September 10, 2013. Joel is a graduate of my OLLI Understanding Soccer class and has become an avid fan.
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.