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July 7, 2010

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LAST WEEK: The great EXB World Cup photo competition. Send us your photos and win a trip for two!

Germany four, Argentina nil. What is there to be said that hasn't been said already. If only Diego Maradona had deigned to turn up with a midfield it might have been a game. As it was, it wasn't. As a nice little microcosm of everything that is happening in German football, I watched two guys with perfect accents arguing across the bar as to whether Germany would win or be spanked. As a German (born in Poland) put away the cross from a German (whose parents are Turkish) the argument was over. Turns out that the Argentina fan was Croatian and the Germany fan Bosnian.

For light relief before watching Arjen Robben's ironic goal celebrations against Uruguay (he lay down on the floor like he had kept doing through the whole fucking tournament), there was the launch of the new 1.FC Union Berlin kit (photo) at the 11Freunde WM Quartier, a destroyed former train depot next to Cassiopeia which is using its eponymous big screen to show the World Cup. I met last year's top scorer and superstar Torsten Mattuschka (who had to run off early to attend to his new baby daughter), keeper Jan Glinker and Karim Benyamina, all-time top scorer and a man who looks like the cat that's been put in charge of the cream. Immediately, Benyamina tells me that it's okay to speak English. Mattuschka says no, he can't speak it, but by way of making an effort reads out the the label of his Fritz Kola bottle in an American accent. I'm touched to the point of crying. On asking them how they got on in the recent training camp, I recieved what could only be described as ashen-faced silence.

They said it was necessary to repeat last year's lightning start to the season, but showed us the video later, with Macchambes Younga-Mouhani seemingly dying at the top of the 700-step staircase they'd had to run up and Kenan Şahin wobbling precariously for an eternity as he tried to get his balance, 30 ft up on a 20 cm wide log. They were nice guys though with a schoolboys on holiday feel, giggling away happily. New striker Halil Savran looked a bit shy, but then he was more than likely thinking who the fuck is this guy welcoming me to Berlin. He's just scored 26 goals in his last two years at Dynamo Dresden and has swapped shooting spots with Shergo Biran. He doesn't need me to welcome him here.

I asked head press honcho and match day ringleader Christian Arbeit about the preparations for next season. He seemed excited about the visit of Middlesbrough at the end of July - "we try to model ourselves on the old English clubs", which shows as the friendlies against Wolves and Leeds before attest. "... Before it went shit with the all-seater stadia and the money.... When I was in England in '92-93," he continued, "I used to go and watch Chelsea at Stamford Bridge - when it was made out of bricks [he said this like the bricks were the important thing] and it cost £9."

The new Union kit is pretty tasteful, actually. There was a choice of 10 initially, which included a couple of designs that would make Escher blush. Pretty plain, red, with an outline of the Fernsehturm flanking one side - which is nice, as I just read that the original building of the stand at the Alte Försterei was based on the sand excavated from Alexanderplatz when it was built. As the rain comes down, I leg it to watch Holland progress to the final. "It's weird, isn't it?" says my mate John, "that we could have a final between Holland playing like the Germans and Germany playing like the Dutch." Weird indeed.

Wondering where to watch the game tonight? Check out our guide.

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July 7, 2010

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