Sunday, June 13, 2010

germany v australia: it's getting cold in this room

A few things occurred to me early on in the match: one is that now Michael Ballack and Jens Lehmann are gone, the German squad is not nearly as loathesome as it used to be. It's difficult to dislike a coach like Loew, a man who looks like he's carrying the weight of the world on his haggard shoulders, a man who obviously cares more than is healthy. The players, although still tall and humorless like frozen ents, did not immediately repel me, not until those spine-chilling victory yells began. The other thing that occurred to me, and I shiver as I speak it, is that Germany is going to win this damned World Cup.

Granted, the night is young. I have not yet seen the form of many strong contenders: Spain, Italy, Brazil, Portugal. Messi might still manifest some beautiful, chaotic miracle for that beautiful, shambolic Argentine side. That said, I was completely stunned at the confidence and cohesion of this teutonic team. They have a perfect play, and they keep at it, over and over: they begin by passing the ball around at the back in a leisurely fashion until the Aussies are lured out of their caution and dart forward to challenge. Then the ball is threaded through the middle and someone makes a sudden and lightning-fast run while someone else makes a parallel run, so that when the two reach the area, defenders trailing at their heels, the first runner passes to the second runner and one or the other has a terrifyingly good chance at goal. Over and over they lured the Aussies out and with their passing skills moved among them silent and untouched; over and over came the sudden charge on the goal-mouth. Over and over the Australians fought bravely to regroup, and Schwarzer in goal seemed sometimes downright unnerved.

Everyone has a favorite underdog. Mine is Australia. There's not a human in the world who thought the Socceroos would beat Germany, but they're still a burly, physical side, not easily outmuscled. They were far too respectful, though, for the first bit, too intimidated, and they have nowhere near the ease and surety in one-touch passing that they'd need to get past a team of this quality. Around the half-hour mark, my boys began to get mad and more aggressive; not downright Croatian, but more physical, less cautious, and it boded well. When it came time for Tim Cahill's red card, which I thought was harsh but by no means scandalous, they coalesced at last. You have to a love a team that doesn't fold, that does the OPPOSITE of folding. You throw them a piece of disaster, they pull together and fight harder. I do not give them up yet; this is their hardest match in group stages by far.

And I have to give credit to the ref, who gave not one but TWO yellows to diving Germans. It's a bold move, a card like that; both calls were spot-on correct, he did not hesitate, and I was very grateful for it. Especially the one toward the end. You're winning 4-nil over a side that's a man down, and you're pulling a blatant dive? Man, how low is that?


lynda said...

I had the same thought about Germany winning, and I was surprised to find that I too wasn't finding them loathsome--was not making the Ballack/Lehmann connection but you are absolutely right.

derek said...

I don't think Germany will win the Cup--they're too young--but surely they'll make it to the quarter finals. Spain can take them, as Argentina if they can rediscover how to score goals. But Germany did look excellent and put on a fine display of attacking football. What's not to love?