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I met Gerd Müller the other day. He was out celebrating Germany's victory over Australia on Sunday evening, and seemed as surprised as I was. I should clear this up, it wasn't that Gerd Müller and he seemed to be doing his best to throw all my national stereotypes out of the pram along with my awe that the World Cup needed a pulsating, quick and technically excellent performance by the youngest German team in over 70 years to kick it off. He didn't get my joke about Siphiwe Tschabalala, to whom I'm going to recommend signing for Rot Weiss Ahlen so he can play alongside Alain Junior Olle Olle.
So the contrasts were stark when I think back on the weekend. I had conversations with Germans who told me not to worry, it's only the first game and that they wanted England to do well, and I hung my head away from the English blokes on Oranienburger Str. who sung God Save The Queen through the Mexican and South African national anthems (no, I couldnt work it out either). There was an older, balding guy sat in front of me during this display of national pride wearing a German shirt. He scowled over his shoulder at the youths and muttered. He then turned to his mate and said "Fucking idiots" in a thick Scots accent.
At Germany vs England at the Olympiastadion last time, there was a huge banner welcoming us that said simply "Thank you for inventing the beautiful game". Unfortunately England seem to be playing it (and in aforementioned cases, supporting it) in ways still reminiscent of the times before the Scots invented passing.
Naturally, the pub I watched it in was unanimously supporting of England and even turned Sky to the English commentary for our benefit which would be about as likely to happen as Wayne Rooney not scampering back for the ball like a hungry dog in a morgue in England. The most unedifying behaviour came from ZDF's commentator who, somewhat bewilderingly, got a link between Klose's goal to the nazi party. The only other wartime stirrings were the tenuous links between the shiver I get down my spine on hearing the Marseillaise and Mezut Özil looking a bit like Peter Lorre.
If you think that the noise on TV is annoying then you should try watching football with my good mate Dave. He has Bobby Charltons haircut but the tactical nous of Bobby Ball. If the vuvuzelas' racket has been compared to sharing a tent with a hornets nest, then watching the World Cup with Dave would be akin to trying to form the swarm into the shape of Marilyn Monroe and finding an orifice, whilst the noise continues unabated. So we ditched him for the Germany game and watched on a huge screen in the hof at the back of my house with the other occupants of the building. Again they were discreet about the previous evenings match, and assured me, en masse, that England will still get through. This magnanimity was as irritating as Dave or the vuvuzelas, but it wasn't echoed by Bert Trautmann who claims he turned the TV off in a rage "I feel sorry for the poor guy, now England have found a scapegoat and can now hide their awful performance behind this mistake. And that makes me rage even more" he told the Tagesspiegel.
By this point I wanted Germany to get stuffed again, but Australia seemed to decide that the best way to play is without any attacking intent whatsoever, and to give their flashy, young and skilled players as much time as they liked and space to run into. Despite his best efforts even Miroslav Klose managed to score. My neighbours were, by the time of their 2nd goal, already halfway through the mountains of flesh piled next to the barbecue and firing large rockets into the sky. This so terrified two other of my mates that they ran away at half time. I stayed for the ignimony and managed to mutter "We'll see you in the final then", but don't think that I really either believed it, or wanted it. If I get any more nice bloody Germans rubbing my face in the fact that their country has grown up and can play football like it too then I think I'll explode. Gerd Müller left me with the words "I hope you make it to the final" which despite the potential for smugness swirling around him as the Schlagerlouts celebrated their excellent performance and the volume of the shitty music got ratcheted up, actually sounded like he meant it.
Wondering where to watch the games? Check out our guide.