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?