Friday, July 9, 2010

The 1990s - when Germany was unbearable

It is nice to have two new teams in the finals. As you can see here, Brazil and Italy have both come in first more often (five and four times, respectively) than Germany, but no team has been in the final four more often than Germany at 12 times (followed by Brazil and Italy with 10 and 8 times). Furthermore, three countries have won 12 of the 18 finals, which is too high of a concentration if you ask me. Sunday night, we get a new winner.

The German performance is all the more impressive if you consider that their first appearance was in 1954. By that time, Brazil and Italy had already been in the final four twice. So actually, Germany is almost always in the final four, whereas Brazil and Italy are only there half the time.

Since 1954, Germany only missed the final four in two consecutive world cups once, in 1994 and 1998. In 1990, Germany won the World Cup for the last time as West Germany, with a separate team still playing for East Germany. Back then, Frank Beckenbauer spoke the infamous words:

Es tut mir leid für den Rest der Welt, aber wir werden in den nächsten Jahren nicht zu besiegen sein.

Translation: I feel sorry for the rest of the world, but we will be unbeatable in the next few years.

Beckenbauer the Unbeatable was himself unbearable in the press conference ("we were fantastic in all seven games"), insisting that things would only get better when the players from East Germany started playing for a united German team:

Tiny Denmark, which had planned to spend the summer at the beach after not even qualifying for the European Cup in 1992, ended up playing when Yugoslavia crumbled (leaving the tournament without a Yugoslavian team), and Denmark beat Beckenbauer's unbea(t/r)able German team to win the cup.

I moved back to Germany in 1992, and it was during this era that I began following football (the World Cup was also played in the US in 1994, which helped keep my attention). It was with great pleasure that I watched those arrogant Germans eat their hats throughout the 90s.

This year, there is none of that arrogance. The general feeling is that we have this really young team with a lot of players who were not even well known within Germany, and while we may not have a Ronaldo, Messi, or Rooney, we do have 11 guys who play as a team. The sentiment has been expressed over and over at the games, as (German) friends of mine looked over to me with a look of pleasant surprise (bordering on shock) and the words: "We are good!" Yes, we are. And because the team is still young, we're going to be good for some time to come. So as the surprise wears off, let's watch the wording: we're good, not unbeatable.

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