Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Germany 3 Ecuador 0



The unbridled joy with which Jurgen Klinsmann hops around the German sideline is clearly infecting his team, his nation, and even yours truly, who normally considers German soccer to be about as appealing as being locked in the same room as Katie Couric and Ann Coulter. (The horror!)

OK, let's get a few facts out of the way first for the sake of clarity. We want to remain rational and avoid any over-excitement:

No, Germany has yet to play an opponent deemed to be a legit contender, although Ecuador has been an enticing story thus far. No, Ecaudor did not start goalscoring supremes Augustin Delgado and Carlos Tenorio nor did it seem overly interested in doing anything other than hoping for a tie. (I guess they fear not the robot dance of Peter Crouch.) And yes, Germany is playing on home soil in front of thousands of fans slowly beginning to believe in unison. The transformation from doubt to faith must be hanging in the air heavy enough to crush an opponent. These three factors could and should provide two giant piles of salt to any sudden Deutchland mania you may be feeling.

That said, if you aren't slowly becoming a believer, even if hesitant or reluctant, in the Germans, who were more maligned than Dusty Baker in a Wrigleyville bar coming into the tournament, then you just haven't been watching the games. Where once the Germans played with the emotion and flair of a tank ominously rolling through a gray, terrified village, they now seem to be having fun. Overflowing, genuine fun. Does the word 'fun' even translate into German?

As a player, Klinsmann was the type of striker whose modus operandi seemed to be to sprint straight forward to an open space. He was relentlessly in attack. If he played American football, he would have been a wide receiver. If he played basketball, he would have been the teammate furiosly sprinting alongside Stev Nash waiting for the pass. The guy was a jackrabbit with an angine that never quit. In fact, he was he anti-Geman. So it shouldn't be surprising that his team now plays as if the great aim of soccer, the true joy to be derived from it, is scoring goals, and not steadfastly preventing them. At this point, it's hard not to be a fan.

Klinsmann made the curious decision today to play his star, Michael Ballack, the entire ninety minutes at the risk of him picking up his second yellow card and missing Germany's next game. It was a mon-move that made little sense and left wide open the possibility of complete disaster. But in the end, Ballack avoided any such trouble and you were left to conclude that there is no reason to argue with anything Klinsmann does at the moment. He's made the Germans, both the team and the people, joyful, which I suupose makes him some sort of magic man. Of course, if anyone learned his lessons the hard way, it was Ballck when he was forced to watch the 2002 final from the bench due to suspension. I suppose Ecuadoran ankles were safe from a Ballack attack all along.

Miroslav Klose scored twice today, and in case you haven't been paing attention, the guy is causing a minor rumble in the all-time World Cup goalscoring ranks. He currently has eight in ten games with probably a few more in him yet in this tourney, you would think. Klose's young partner up top, Lukas Podolski, notched his first goal today with one of the prettier finishes you'll see. I wonder what Poland must feel as it watches its two former countrymen attaining glory with their hated neighbors. Perhaps Lech Walesa need start another revolution over this because, if I'm Polish, I'm thinking this is some bullshit.

So Germany presumably will avoid England in the second around barring a major surprise in today's later games. The typical and, oh, so expected German run through the bracket is only beginning.

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