It is now 24 long years since Germany last won the World Cup. Put it like this, the last time they triumphed, the World Cup wasn’t just an opportunity to sell beer, cars and widescreen TVs to a global audience. (Or maybe it was: The first World Cup started in 1930, just two years after televisions started being manufactured. Prohibition ended three years later. Coincidence?)
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The Germans always seem to have the happy habit of starting tournaments well. It’s just the finishing bit that has deserted them these past 20 or so years. They thumped Australia 4-0 in South Africa four years ago, and repeated that scoreline Monday against a Cristiano Ronaldo-uninspired Portugal.
Thomas Muller scored the scrappiest of hat-tricks for the Germans – not that he’ll care – as they cruised to a surprisingly easy victory in front of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who always seems to find the time to attend these matches. (Haven’t you got a continent to run, Mrs. Merkel?)
If we were her, we would have stayed in Germany and headed to Union Berlin’s ground, along with about 12,000 other Germans. (Who are we kidding? Most of them were probably Yair Lapid-baiting Israelis.) The only stipulation was that you should bring your sofa along to chill out and watch the game - which is how 700 sofas ended up adorning the pitch! We look forward to IKEA doing something similar the next time Sweden qualify.
Monday provided the tournament’s dullest game: a 0-0 tie between Iran and Nigeria. A game of few chances thanks to the painfully defensive Iranians – a real, ahem, bunker mentality, one might say – and a disappointingly inept Nigeria. In fact, a game between two sets of sofas would have provided more entertainment.
The only highlight came after the final whistle, as everyone watched to see if any Iranian would swap shirts with his opponent. (You may have seen stories saying that the Iranian soccer federation had told its players not to swap shirts, because the budget didn’t stretch to new shirts for every game - damn those sanctions!). Well, we saw one Iranian exchange his shirt with a Nigerian, but we have a feeling there will be a few more swapped when they play Argentina this Saturday.
The final game of the day, U.S.A. vs. Ghana, was far more entertaining. Two teams slugging it out like heavyweight boxers. It wasn’t always pretty, but it was always pretty exciting.
U.S. striker Clint Dempsey wrote his name into the record books by scoring after only 29 seconds, the quickest goal ever at the World Cup finals. The game finished 2-1 to the Americans, leaving the Ivory Coast as the only African side to pick up three points so far.
Brazil are back in action Tuesday, in a fascinating matchup with Mexico. We’re most looking forward to seeing how Belgium, the tournament’s dark horses, fare when they launch their campaign against Algeria. Their biggest concern has got to be over the state of Marouane Fellaini’s hair in the humid conditions.
Finally, we have a polite request: Can goalscorers stop rushing toward their bench/coaches/manager when they score? These communal celebrations are so last week. Doesn’t anybody dance by the corner flag anymore, like they used to in the good old days?
Brazil vs. Mexico, 10 P.M.
Belgium vs. Algeria, 7 P.M.
Russia vs. South Korea, 1 A.M.