German fans are consumed with excitement for this World Cup—and deep concern.
Here in Berlin, despite the disagreeable weather, World Cup fever is now fully epidemic. There’s hardly a bar or restaurant that hasn’t got a large flat screen TV set up for the benefit of its smoking, drinking, screaming football clientele. The other night, sitting outside at a Mediterranean place in Kreuzberg, I could hear the TVs of the neighboring restaurants echoing across the square, as though the world’s most intricate surround sound system had been installed here.
The entire city, in fact, is dressed for the occasion. German flags hang from the balconies of apartment buildings, garlands in German colors adorn tables and chests, and Schweinsteigers and Müllers and Özils can be seen walking around everywhere. There doesn’t seem to be an aspect of life here in Berlin that hasn’t been infiltrated by the World Cup spirit, from the side mirrors of cars to the ashtrays on café tables. Come to think of it, even the toilet paper I bought yesterday has little football players on it.
The German fans themselves, meanwhile, are a joyful if sternly expectant bunch. Die Mannschaft’s sacking of Portugal in the opening game was all well and good, but a goalless first half against Ghana was almost tantamount to a loss. The backroom of the bar I was watching the game in, I realized during the break, was tensely silent. Not until Mario Götze headed the ball into his knee and then knocked it past Fatau Dauda to give the Germans the lead after 51 minutes were people roused from their nerve-wracked trance. “Endlich!” a young German next to me erupted. The good cheer swelled once more.
For about ninety seconds. Capitalizing on an increasingly error-prone back four, Harrison Afful deftly dispatched a cross in the direction of André Ayew, who somehow managed to out-tower Per Mertesacker and head the ball past Manuel Neuer. Ghana equalized, and once again all was quiet on the German front.
Concern bordered on panic when Ghana went ahead ten minutes later, but Miroslav Klose’s historic goal reignited the German fans’ hopes of coming out on top. So great is the symbolic value of his goal—Klose is now, along with Brazil’s Ronaldo, the all-time World Cup goal scorer—that it was almost treated as a victory in itself. “Even Rihanna loves Miro Klose,” read a newspaper headline after the pop star tweeted: “my nigga Klose.”
Still, there is a real mixture of excitement and deep concern about Germany’s chances in the World Cup. If the domination of Portugal in the opening game gave rise to unrealistic expectations (“This will be our World Cup,” wrote Bild), the draw against Ghana was a sober reminder that, for all their goal-scoring zeal in the past couple of tournaments—an impressive tally of forty-four goals in twenty-one games—Joachim Löw’s team are the perennial, cup-less favorites, forever stuck in 2nd or 3rd place.
At the moment, however, all eyes are on tomorrow’s showdown with the United States, which is turning out to be one of the most anticipated fixtures of the group stages. It is a game the Germans view exclusively in German terms, as a highly publicized duel between two German colleagues who together made the German team what it is today (Joachim Löw was Klinsmann’s assistant coach during the 2006 World Cup). You might as well call it Germany v. Germany. Jürgen Klinsmann, as a former German player, represents the great German team of the 90’s that won the World Cup and the European Championship, while Joachim Löw, with his sorrowful face and soup bowl haircut, represents the new Germany, the Germany that has yet to win anything, but which is still the best team they’ve had for over a decade.