Monday, June 28, 2010



by Wayne Robins

It's taken a little time to digest Germany's stunning 4-1 defeat of England Sunday. After all, Sunday's game was the was the metaphysical match-up of the World Cup so far, weird old Europe's answer to the Cold War drama of the 1980 U.S./Russia Olympics hockey game. England vs. Germany! Making headlines together as hard-hitting rivals since 1914, at least. Never mind World Cups (like the 1966 final game, won by England and the likely source of British entitlement ever since): These sides fought World Wars, and played nationalism-fueled soccer games between and after the wars, and anyone with a sense of history knew this soccer game offered at least a reminder of what is now, thank god, long finished business between them. The droll play-by-play annoucer Martin Tyler referred to the history of "skirmishes" between the nations, a typical bit of understatement that has made the main mic men from the U.K. such a pleasure this World Cup.

The game itself lived up to its billing. For people who think soccer is too slow and cramped, Germany was so loose it might have been playing American football, with a West Coast offense at that. Germany's goalie Neuer acted as (American football) quarterback with a long goal kick from his end, which bounced twice near the English goal before Miroslav Klose kicked it in: The equivalent of a 90-yard touchdown pass. Germany's third goal, in the 67th minute, was a kind of fast-break through British defenders nailed perfectly by Thomas Muller: the equivalent of an 80-yard TD run from scrimmage. The 20-year-old Muller put an exclamation point on the game with another goal two minutes later.

Of course, much of the talk is about the English goal that would have tied the score at 2-2 before the half had the referee spotted Lampard's kick bouncing well behind German lines. Everyone in the world saw it except the refs. No goal. All the more important, then, that Germany completely dominated the second half. To their credit, the announcers in the stadium and the British commentator in the studio, Liverpool legend and English World Cup veteran Steve McNamanan, did not blame the botched goal call on Britiain's loss. "We're not as good as we think we are." "Terrible" "An awful performance." The Germans were "quicker, stronger, more intelligent." And that was the truth.

Oh yes: On Saturday, Ghana beat the United States 2-1, ending the U.S. run at the tournament. The score reflected reality: Ghana was just a little bit better, faster, more aggressive, more skillful, more energized, than the U.S. team. Can't wait for Germany-Argentina, with plenty more psychohistorical subtext in the quarterfinals Saturday.

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