Kicker describes it as “der Klassiker“ ; the tabloids are a bit less circumspect. BZ runs with “Now we get the little English women“, which I don't really understand, but it works better in German. The Daily Star went for for “Job done, Now for the Hun“, but then the Daily Star also have a button for More “news“ stories, the quotation marks around “news“ at least delivered with a knowing wink. We can expect a lot more of this as the build-up to Sunday's Achtelfinal in Bloemfontein between England and Germany reaches fever pitch. Certainly Berlin will be rocking for it. A screaming mass of face-painted, stupid-hatted, vuvuzela-tooting teutons will be swarming the city, and if you don't like football or combinations of the colours gold, red and black then maybe it's time to get out to the lake. At least you'll have it to yourself.
I can't be partisan about it. I've tried, but - as in England too - games like these bring out the Wurst in many of us (there it is). I'm no jingoist but to paraphrase Kevin Keegan, I would love it if we beat them. King Kev may not be the best person to quote here, having resigned his twitchy tenure as England boss after losing the last game ever at Wembley to Germany, but also because he is an errudite so and so who speaks better German than I could ever dream of after his succsessful stint in Hamburg.
It's not so bad with the actual football fans, we can take the disappointments as we've been there done that many times before, but more importantly generally understand that the banter and piss-taking is just that. It's the fair-weather fans who take these things too seriously. Until Wednesday night I have happily worn my England shirt in pubs and deservedly had the shit ripped out of me for it, but rarely was it intended malignantly. On Wednesday, on my first conversation with a German fan after the win against Ghana, I asked who she thought would win. Sniffily, she barely looked in my direction before saying something about “us smashing you“. She then harangued me for being an English idiot for thinking that the game was on Sunday, because “I know it's on Saturday, we've had to rearrange going out for drinks.“
I wasn't born in 1970, but I know the story well. 1966, I think I've heard mentioned in England before, but 1990 is etched on my poor addled brain like an ill-advised Skid Row tattoo. I can't wait for Sunday. It's time for the cloggers and duffers to stand up. It's a bit like comparing the respective works of R.L. and D.I. Burnside, but the disadvantages that England have could very well become strengths against a young and potentially lightweight German side, especially if Bastian Schweinstiger can't get himself fit. Jerome Boateng, Wednesday's left back, is a doubt too, which would mean a return for the flaky Holger Badstuber and a wet dream for a returning Aaron Lennon. James Milner played in that slot Wednesday night, but looked nervous and his crossing (apart from one gem) was utterly pony and pace will be the key to unlocking the German defences.
On Wednesday, Per Mertesacker was shoddy and could well be an embarrasment waiting to happen. If Jermain Defoe stays (which, surely he must) up front with Rooney his speed could really trouble the Germans. Steven Gerrard on the left is a different matter, and Phillip Lahm, who has been excellent all tournament, should have space there to be at his most effective. This is where England need to have a bit of savvy. To know when to push and when to wait, basically the same old story. Gareth Barry will have his hands full with the Sami Khedira and Mesut Özil, so Frank Lampard is really going to have to put a shift in to prove that he deserves to be there at all on his last few showings.
Shit, I dont know. Ashley Cole should have the measure of Thomas Müller, but this is what I always think at this stage. This is the problem with predictions. Should is an easy word to say. Ashley Cole is also accused of putting mobile telephones up his bottom, but it doesn't mean it definitely happened, does it? After all the talk of this young, gifted, energetic and multicultural German mannschaft I think it's time for the English to play up to every stereotype in the book. Yeah Franz, kick them and rush. It may not be pretty, and it certainly won't make wearing my England shirt in the pub easier that night, but that's the World cup for you - and I haven't even mentioned penalties.