I remember when Bastian Schweinsteiger missed a penalty in the shootout of the Champions League final for Bayern in 2012. I really needed Bayern to win that year. If Chelsea lost, there would have been an extra spot in the Champions League for Tottenham Hostpur. But Schweinsteiger missed, Drogba stepped up and scored and Chelsea won it. And I just remember thinking, “there is no way he would have missed that penalty if he had been playing for Germany.”
Something happens to a German soccer player when he puts on the national team jersey. He becomes a better player and part of a well oiled machine, tournament after tournament.
Lukas Podolski and Mesut Ozil didn’t really shine at Arsenal this past year. But whenever I’ve seen them play for Germany they’ve been stars. I remember reading about Miroslav Klose a few years back and how he was having a scoring draught at Lazio. In a Germany jersey, he’s scored more goals than Pele in the World Cup. He has scored more goals than a man whose name in our country is a synonym for “soccer player”. Ever hear someone who doesn’t even know soccer say “kick it over here, Pele”? Klose has scored more than that guy.
And Thomas Muller. Oh, dammit, we have to play against Thomas Muller.
Eric Wynalda is a retired US national team player who played in the Bundesliga. Now he’s a commentator. He once told this story about laughing in the locker room after a loss. Maybe he was trying to lighten the mood, I don’t know. A teammate threw a cleat at his head. Losing isn’t funny.
We can make jokes about Germans, from something as benign as a precise engineering joke to the obvious, somewhat unfair, rather hack joke concerning a past association with the National Socialist Party. But the fact is this: Germans don’t fuck around. They’re frighteningly consistent. They’re like a Swiss watch… uh, that was taken apart and then put back together by a German… whatever, man, you get it. The Germans are here to play.
And yet, I think the USA can win.
It’s a gut feeling and I’m going to go with it. I’m not really afraid for the team. I’m not looking at all of the scenarios in which we go through. We’ll deal with that after the result. We just need to play. And we’ve proven that we can. We’re in second place in the group of death. I didn’t think we’d be in this position, not even close.
Costa Rica won the group of champions – three World Cup winning teams in that group and Costa Rica came out on top. Spain is out of the tournament. Nothing is set in stone.
The USA just needs to play. I don’t know if I’m being naive or if I’m feeling the calm before a storm. And, yeah, on June 15th, I could have named roughly four players on the US national team (which would have come down to three after learning that Landon Donovan was, in fact, not in the squad). But I can’t wait for this game.
My old work colleague was from Germany but he’s lived in the US for over twenty years. He once told me, “if there was a war between the United States and Germany, I’d fight for the United States. But when it comes to soccer, I’ll always root for Germany.”
Well, my friend, this isn’t war. Let’s go USA.