The Germans have been the placeholder villains at World Cups for a lot of people for many World Cups now. Whether it was the decidedly robotic play in 1986 or the savagery of Schumacher in the 1982 semi final which followed the very convenient draw against Austria to ensure both went through to the next round, the Germans have consistently made themselves available to be the team that many fans vent on.
Now Germany come to South Africa with their youngest squad since 1934 and minus the not-widely-loved (even in Germany) Michael Ballack. With only a few household names (Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Lahm, Klose), the mantle of villain would have to be earned from negative tactics rather than force of personality. The script should really have been keep the ball, control the tempo, stay tight at the back and get a dodgy penalty call aided by hyserical shrieking at the ref. Stick it in and hold on for a dour 1-0 win.
Instead, the Germans are the delight of the first round thus far. Pouring forward a la Arsenal with a steady array of penetrating balls into the box and dangerous crosses, it didn’t take long for Podolski to scream one by Schwartzer in goal. But the traditional reflex to reduce the game to a crawl through stifling play at every turn never materialized. What we got was one of the bravest goals you’ll see: Klose flying in to leap and head past on onrushing Schwartzer. Massively inspiring. And the Germans just kept going. Manager Low didn’t reign them in. They played the way that makes Brazil everyone’s second favourite team (unless your Brazilian). Kudos.
Devil’s Advocate: It should be noted that German new-boy Mesut Özil took one of the cheesier dives early in the game. He was properly carded for it. Something I strongly advocated for in an earlier post. Should the Aussies have got a pk when the ball went off Mertesacker’s arm? Would have been harsh but not as harsh as the red card on Cahill later in the game. The memory does struggle to remember many instances of harsh calls going against the Germans historically…Still, it’s not enough to make this team villains.