We have now seen all of the teams in Euro 2012, breathed in the rich and varied footballing styles on display and keenly noted the varying levels of attractiveness among the respective sets of female fans (hats off to Denmark on that front, as always).
But while we all pretend to be conscious of every team involved, there is only one side that preoccupies our every thought, dominates our nightmares and defines our very destinies. That’s right, Croatia.
No, not really, I am of course talking about Germany.
Germany, that perennial MacGuffin. That dark specter, forever cast across the continent’s sub-conscious; that enigma; that conundrum; that terrifying thunder hawk of doom; that bastard.
Right, here are the stats: according to Sharp Fan Labs research into intercontinental fan attitudes 42% of all fans involved in Euro 2012 say Germany are the team they fear most. This makes them the most scary team in the tournament.
Why? Because they are called Germany, that’s why.
It’s a brand thing. They’re the guys in the white shirts and the black shorts. They could dress eleven Bavarian pigs up in that kit and send them out into a tournament quarter final confident that they would strike fear into the hearts of their opponents. And, chances are, those curly-tailed Teutonic-swines would make a damned good fist of grinding out a result against whatever human opposition they faced, most likely taking the match to a penalty-shoot out which they would doubtlessly win, executing a set of implausibly accurate spot-kicks with their muddied trotters. The German fans, so irritatingly au fait with the sweet taste of victory, would then take to the pitch and slaughter their heroes in front of the world’s press, before mincing their flesh and turning them into a giant string of celebratory bockwurst. And who could blame them?
They could dress eleven Bavarian pigs up in that kit and send them out into a tournament quarter final confident that they would strike fear into the hearts of their opponents.
The point is that the Germans are somehow born to win. I’m no subscriber to the iffy-headed doctrines of their most famous philosophical-son, Freidrich Neitzsche, but – when it comes to football – there certainly seems to be something in the persistent success of Germans that lends some credence to his theories on nature and the Übermensch. But, to be clear, most of everything he else went on about was total bollocks.
So, anyway, that’s why we all fear the Germans. But here’s the thing: we also love the Germans. The Germans are the most popular ‘second choice’ team in Europe. When asked who they would switch allegiance to if their team were eliminated, 20% of all the fans involved said Germany. Eeven 29% of of the French chose them as their second team. Have they never seen an episode of Allo Allo? The way Herr Flick of the Gestapo terrorised that poor café owner throughout the occupation was nothing short of disgusting.
We English are the only people who appear to still have a major problem with the Germans, due mostly to our small-minded vindictiveness and inability to erase the mental image of Andreas Moller puffing his chest out at Wembley after scoring that winning penalty in Euro 96 like he wanted to know or something YEAH? YEAH? YOU WANNA KNOW DO YA ANDREAS? COME ON THEN, LET’S GO THEN PAL! LETS HAVE IT! RIGHT HERE! ME AND YOU, YOU TOSSER!
Sorry, sorry. Deep breaths. Where were we?
Oh yeah, even 23% of Dutch fans – traditionally so hostile to their German neighbours - said they’d switch to Das Uber Haben Fuβball Bursch (as they probably go around calling themselves, I imagine) if their own team got eliminated.
With their youthful exuberance, newly flamboyant style of play and alarmingly metrosexual manager, the German national team have successfully eroded some of the most long held resentments in Europe and transformed themselves into the most feared yet loved team in football. Like the hardest kid in the school, you might shit yourself whenever they walk through the playground – but you wouldn’t half mind being invited round their house for tea.
Still, let’s hope Holland win tonight – obviously.
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