Quite an eventful tour
1) A few basic thoughts on the World Cup
What does the everyday life of a professional player look like? Is there such a thing as everyday life? You really have to think of it a bit like the other professional player, namely the professional football player. There is the everyday life, that is the league games. Success can only be achieved in the very long term. The season lasts almost the whole year. It is always somehow exciting, thrilling, you have also turned your hobby into a profession. But still: there are the daily training sessions, there is the winter and when you play, you are in the limelight but only domestically and not so exaggerated.
Then there are maybe a few other highlights, cup matches, Champions League, even international matches for some. And then there is the one event. The dream for every player himself. The mega-event. The whole world is watching, including housewives, children and all the other non-fans. Some may watch for the first time and from then on for the rest of their lives. The World Cup.
And that’s how it has been all my life. The dream of being able to actively participate at some point was over by the time I was 14. No, I’m lying. It could still happen today that I dream it. But at the latest when I woke up, it was clear to me that it would never be enough. When you’re a child, you’re allowed, aren’t you? And realising at 14 is not too late, is it?
But the anticipation, the great enthusiasm, the feeling of being alive during a World Cup was and is always unique. And I didn’t just watch. I watched all the games. There was practically no exception. Even during the preliminary round, I had to cancel all other appointments. The day and life during the World Cup was determined by the schedule of the matches.
As a professional player, that hasn’t changed, of course. On the contrary. Apart from watching the matches, I had to make the assessments, prepare the odds and place the bets. Of course, I also had to maintain the database. But the special thing is yet to come: First of all, more bets are being placed anyway and from all sides. And that is not just more. It’s a gigantic amount more. I can’t express it in figures, and it’s hard to estimate, but it’s certainly more than double (it could also be five times as much). But that is not even decisive: this other money is used differently. Actually, it should be called “stupid money.”
At the World Cup, many people suddenly have “something loose”. They also watch the games, all over the world. And that may be enough motivation to put something on the line. Of course, betting providers also sense their chance and do a few promotions during the World Cup, write to people, offer bonuses for deposits or simply really good and sophisticated odds on all sorts of things. This also serves as motivation, because especially during the World Cup, many people feel the same way I do: in anticipation, they study teams, maybe collect football pictures, read special magazines to pass the time. And while doing so, you discover the odds on offer and still have weeks to bet on them.
Apart from that, football is the only topic of discussion everywhere. Betting games at work, among acquaintances, nowadays on the internet. Everything is focused on football. The media also play their part. This is the only time when the cucumbers are not sour at all. It’s not even being played, but the World Cup studio is already in the national team’s quarters two weeks beforehand (and not just the German team) and brings daily reports on who didn’t like breakfast today, who got up on the right side of the bed (or was it the left today?) or who had a verbal duel with the assistant coach. All of a sudden, even that seems exciting. Of course, the most important thing is: How did Lukas Podolski sleep and is Miro still tweaking his little toe?
For me, it has always been the absolute non-plus-ultra in this respect, especially since I started as a professional player. I’ve already told you about the 1990 World Cup (chapter “My Betting Office”). Here I’ll tell you a bit about the 1994 World Cup.
2) Tournament preparation
Of course, I mustn’t forget that my first daughter was born a few days before the tournament in the USA. And that was on 27 May. One floats then anyway. The anticipation of the tournament and the birth caused euphoria weeks and months beforehand. I’m not competing with Kishon here, but I recommend his short story “A Father is Born” to everyone (whether he’s a father-to-be, already a father, a mother-to-be or already a mother, but also to those who have never become parents; it’s simply suitable for everyone who wants to get to know the sensations).
There was, after all, the one faithful companion, Jessi Baptiste, who remains to this day. Jessi had opened his betting shop, NL Sportwetten, in Austria. As the name said, “NL”, he was Dutch himself, but had to move to Austria because it was illegal in Holland as well as in Germany. When he got the first bets from us in 1991, he told us (Micha and me) later, he immediately noticed that these bets were somehow different. He always examined them specifically. Well, we must have had the necessary luck and won straight away.
He invited us together to Austria, Dornbirn, to look at our product, my football programme. It convinced him right away and from then on he wanted to get the numbers, the assessments, from the computer. Later he even got the whole programme and worked with it for years.
But there was still no agreement on the World Cup. The weekly, fee-based delivery of figures did not yet include the upcoming major event. But Jessi soon had a great idea: we would unconditionally supply him with all the numbers he needed during the tournament and that my computer could work out. Of course, this would include all possible long-term bets, who would be world champion, group winner, how many goals, points a team would score, who would get further than who and so on. His quid pro quo: We would get 50% of all bets placed with his office.
Now that’s what I call a fair proposal. Well, I invoke the statute of limitations when I note here that, of course, the income generated by this was not taxed. If we had any at all. We immediately agreed to it. And then I really do remember the last two weeks before the tournament: the bets were transmitted by fax. And our office fax machine just wouldn’t stand still. It rattled practically day and night. You only had to put in a new roll every now and then.
I don’t remember so well to what extent we studied the bets. Maybe we always looked for higher bets to find out what could be dangerous for us. But basically the bets were very uniform: the favourites were played. On who would win the group, on who would advance, which could also be played as a combination, and on the matches themselves, of course. I can’t remember exactly how many fax rolls we needed in the end. But there was quite a pile of paper lying around afterwards. All full of bets. All illegal (so what?).
Of course we also bet on the numbers. The World Cup is a state of emergency. Of course, the computer always recommends comparable events. So, for example, if we were to play Romania to win the group, then we had to bet on Romania in the individual games at the same time or something. How many points they score (6 or more, for example; 3-point rule), everything was then displayed and recommended. How much you bet on Romania in the end was hard to estimate.
3) The tournament itself
The games were in America, so mostly late in the evening to late at night. Of course, we played Germany in all variations. The opening game had Germany as defending champions, as usual, against Bolivia. The computer was certainly cautious in its assessment and calculated the (market) rate of 1.40, so a clear favourite, what else.
Of course, our hopes were not too high, but we were naturally excited. Finally, the game started! Especially in the opening match, one could perhaps hope for a little surprise?
I still remember how the best Bolivian, I think his name was Emilio Sanchez, suddenly stood opposite Lothar Matthäus with the ball at his foot. And seldom has the platitudinous reporter’s saying been more apt, I said another to Micha afterwards, that he was “petrified with awe”, but the truth was surely this: He let Matthäus have the ball without a fight, but according to unconfirmed reports he was rewarded for this “ball loss” with an autograph promise after the game.
The goalkeeper once ran out of the goal rather haphazardly and in a really weak game still allowed the German team to score the winning goal on the then free goal by Jürgen Klinsmann. The Germans always dismiss this “normality” as a “work victory”. And when other teams lose points in such games, German arrogance always has an explanation ready: they were just too stupid. If only the Germans would finally catch it once…
The second day started better. In the first match, Ireland won 1:0 against Italy thanks to an early, but therefore no less great, goal by Ronnie Whelan. Surely this result could only be favourable, it was just great. All the favourites should be out, if possible. And Italy was one. But it was almost impossible to calculate what the result would be.
The second match of the day was USA – Switzerland, which ended in a 1-1 draw, a fairly neutral result, even financially.
Then came the second match of the German group, Spain – South Korea. This game was important in that Spain was ticked on practically all the combined bets we had received from Jessi…. Then I watched the night game alone. My mother and child had been asleep for a long time, and the other two children I had “inherited” were also asleep (3 and 5). I didn’t have any particular hope that South Korea would win anything here. Nevertheless, I still remembered a South Korean game from a previous World Cup in which they looked much better than the final result indicated. In particular, they had taken rows of long-range shots that looked really good (it was the game against Italy, World Cup 1986, 2:3).
Spain took the lead at some point, as expected, then even 2:0. Well, what am I still watching for? Well, quite simply because I always watch everything. And South Korea wasn’t bad in this game either, not by a long shot. And suddenly, 83rd minute, 1:2. I sat up straight again. Is there still something possible? And indeed, my friends, the South Koreans, managed the miracle, the 2:2 and the final whistle!
What was even more remarkable about this game was how we settled Jessi’s bets the next day. It was such a gigantic number of bets that were lost immediately that you could really wish for a moment that you were always a bookmaker. Then the money really rains down the window. But how much luck did we need in that game? The Spaniards were just too stupid…
At the weekend, the German Subbuteo Team Championship was in Wuppertal. Marcus, my friend and the chairman of our club with the pretty name Sparta Spreeathen, tried under all circumstances to get me to come along. I just said succinctly: “I can’t, I have the World Championship.” Marcus didn’t let up. And when we had gone through the schedule in detail, we made our exact counter- including the time schedule: Marcus takes his video recorder with him. The 19th of June was a Sunday, that’s when the tournament took place.
The first game occasionally started at 12 noon in America, which caused quite a stir at the time. For at least the group Belgium – Holland – Saudi Arabia – Morocco played in Florida. 40 degrees in the shade were the rule rather than the exception. But on the one hand, there had to be uniform kick-off times, and on the other hand, in Europe, where the majority of the (paying) spectators still lived, there had to be halfway civilised kick-off times. And that could only be achieved with this compromise. Saudi Arabia was actually able to make use of this special form of “home advantage” in the course of this group. They progressed with equal points with Holland and Belgium. So it was 6 p.m. in Germany. The second game then started at 9 p.m., the third (often during the preliminary round), according to my memory, at 0:30.
The video recorder was installed, I insisted. We only had the task of passing the time in Wuppertal until 2:30, which would normally not be easy to do there given the raised pavements. But what is “normal” during a World Cup? The bigger problem was to find a place where one would not be informed about the results under any circumstances.
So I managed both, I just had blinders and earplugs with me. And from 2:30 we watched football in our shared hotel room. Three games, in full length, one after the other, without any information beforehand. It was like “live”. Belgium beat Morocco (despite 40 degrees, which would only have been in the shade; on the pitch it was probably hotter), 1:0. Expected, but still no great loss. Then Norway beat Mexico, also 1-0. Not expected, but neither favourable nor unfavourable (one of our own little horses was Mexico).
And now the most important game for me. The above were just examples, but they were really true. We had Romania to win the group, to advance, to get as many points as possible, to win. We were simply Romanians in the game. But the decisive part of it was Pelé. Because he had declared the night’s opponents, Colombia, the “secret favourites”. And Pelé’s secret favourite is one until he says so. Colombia should be eliminated, lose the game, down with Colombia! How easy it is to become a racist by betting!
It was after 5am by now, but I guarantee I wasn’t tired. I just had to watch the game. And it was a feast! I discovered, quite unexpectedly, that I did have Romanian blood somewhere in my genealogy. 3:1 they took the Colombians apart! Hagi, my darling, do it again!
We cleared the hotel room immediately afterwards and started our journey home. I’m sure we took turns at the wheel. In any case, I was still not tired. After all, what is adrenalin for?
How well and vividly I can still see the group constellations today nourishes the hope that the long-suspected Alzheimer’s might have granted a little respite after all?
A very special constellation arose, for example, in the group Italy – Norway – Mexico – Ireland. For us, Italy in particular was not supposed to win the group. Mexico and Ireland we had played ourselves, the others all on Italy and Norway was even better in that it would then not be Italy. In the first match, Ireland defeated Italy 1-0. In the second group match, Norway defeated Mexico 1-0. On the second match day, it came down to the pairing of Norway and Italy. It is worth mentioning that although there were only 24 teams at this World Cup (today there are 32), a round of 16 was to be played. This resulted in the curious arrangement that the first two of each group were sure to go on, but of the group thirds, only the four best. The two worst also had to go home.
Although this arrangement also offers some excitement, it has the following serious disadvantages: To reduce the number of teams from 32 to 24, a total of 6 * 6 matches, i.e. 36 matches, are played. That is quite a lot. In addition, there is the problem that the teams whose groups play first cannot yet know whether their result, their third place, if they end up there, will be enough. This is definitely a form of “distortion of competition”. For me, it has the very tiny disadvantage that I no longer know exactly who had what intentions and what certainties when.
Back to the Norway-Italy game: After the defeat in the game against Ireland, it was clear that Italy simply had to win this game. A draw, apart from the fact that they would have to win the last game against the strong Mexicans, could still mean elimination. A small drop of bitterness from Italy’s point of view: After only a few minutes, the goalkeeper had to leave the pitch after an emergency foul. But the Italians (did they actually invent the slide rule?) wouldn’t be Italian if they didn’t know how to deal with such events on the football pitch. They also won the game with 10 against 11 with 1:0. The Italian result.
The second match of the second matchday was even won by a really strong Mexico with 2:1 against Ireland. This resulted in the curious situation before the last match day that all teams had 3 points. Only Mexico and Ireland had the advantage of 2:2 goals, while Norway and Italy only had 1:1. And more goals scored are worth something when you finish level on points. So here it was that Mexico and Ireland only needed a draw in the last game. They would then have at least two teams behind them in all cases.
The development of the two matches played in parallel has also remained in my memory. Above all, it does so because I keep asking myself what role the reporters actually play. Well, if I were a reporter, I would at least want to enlighten the spectators to the extent that they know and recognise the motivation of the two teams. The reporters, for their part, usually claim that “I would like to spare you the multitude of constellations”. I usually ask myself whether he doesn’t want to spare himself this multitude, or I have absolutely justified doubts that he even has an overview of the constellations and basically wants to save himself the trouble. According to the motto: “Let’s see what comes out and then take a look at the tables.” After all, what do we have an emperor for?
In fact, Italy took the lead in the first game. Now that was unfavourable for me, of course, but very favourable for Italy, no question. The announcer also kept saying that “Italy needed a win”. When the Mexicans equalised, which was fantastic for me because I also had Mexico to win the group (odds 9.0) and they were initially in first place with this result and the intermediate score in the other game. The fact that the designated favourite win was also favourable for me in case of non-entry hardly deserves mention.
The match time was gradually coming to an end and I was about to open a bottle of champagne. The parallel match was still 0-0, and here’s proof of my doubts about the reporter’s competence: While the Italian coach, Arrigo Sacchi, was visibly directing his men backwards in the last minutes on the sidelines in order to keep the result alive, the reporter, in a fit of tension generation, wanted to drive them forward “Italy still needs a goal…”.
Arrigo Sacchi, by the way, did not even need the aforementioned slide rule to work out that his team’s draw would mean certain qualification for the next round. The constellation of the intermediate scores was that all teams had 4 points. Italy, with their 2:2 goals, would only be in 3rd place, but because of the 4 points, this would certainly be enough to advance. Even if not all groups were finished yet (South Korea from the German group was already 2 points worse), not all other teams could manage to get more than these 4 points. And if a goal were to be scored in the parallel match, it would definitely not cost Italy 3rd place, as the loser of the match would then be behind them. And if the absolute miracle were to happen that the opponent would then equalise, i.e. the parallel match would end 1-1, then the following constellation would have arisen: All teams 4 points, as before. Mexico 3:3 goals, through. Ireland 3:3 goals, through. Italy and Norway 2:2 goals. In the event of a tie on points and goals, the direct duel decides. And in this case, it went to Italy. So not even this extremely unlikely sequence would have had disadvantages for Italy.
The only possibility that Italy could still have been eliminated would have been if the match between Ireland and Norway had ended 2:2 (or even 3:3). And Arrigo Sacchi was no longer afraid of that. It was simply impossible, if only for reasons of time. My beloved commentator must have missed all these subtleties. Or was he serious about “not bothering me with it”? Italy needs a goal, that’s what he was trying to sell me. The Italians, for their part, pushed the ball comfortably back and forth.
Both games ended as they stood. Four teams, all four tied on points. Tragic for Norway to have to go home with such a score. But at least you can say that they knew what they needed before the last game and didn’t achieve the goal.
The tragedy is a bit smaller than the one that affected Morocco 4 years later, who had clearly beaten Scotland and only had to wait for the result of the second match. In that match, Brazil was leading 1-0 against Norway shortly before the end, but the match was unimportant for Brazil because they had already won two games. Then Norway “turned” the game to 2-1 and Morocco was out. There were really tears on the pitch then.
Another game is very vivid in my memory. And for the world, it was probably the least important of the entire World Cup: It was the preliminary round match between Bolivia and South Korea. There were several reasons for that: It was the last game of the day, so early morning for us. The city was asleep. I was still sitting in front of the TV, on the one hand conscious of duty, on the other hand also crazy about football. Lothar Hempel was commentating the game. And I seriously wanted to call Eurosport the next day to thank them for the best reporting performance at a football match in a long time. I just can’t stand the German announcers, that’s basically the way it is. In this respect, it is my duty, when someone really gives a good performance, to acknowledge it. Especially because it would mean, also for the others: That’s the way to do it. Maybe then there will be a reproductive effect?
It came about that both teams wanted to win at all costs. Whether they had serious hopes of getting further or whether they simply did it out of football enthusiasm is not even a relevant question. Both wanted to win. And both played offensively. It was, when you get right down to it, comparable to the legendary Brazil – France game at the 1990 World Cup, except that when it came to the nations of Bolivia and South Korea, the world didn’t sit up and take notice. The fact that the score was 0:0 throughout and unchanged adds a funny element to the whole thing. And the final act followed: the game took on the character of legend when the Scottish referee Mottram was obviously totally enthusiastic about the game himself and the efforts simply had to be rewarded for one side or the other, so he allowed 13 minutes to be added on! I myself had a very simple explanation: this stupid newfangled invention of displaying injury time did not yet exist. Since then, injury time has been nothing more than a farce consisting of killing time for the one team satisfied with the result. At that time it was, if you like, arbitrary on the part of the referee, left to his own judgement.
My observations at the time were that the referee often waited for an opportune moment to blow the whistle. When the ball was passed calmly back and forth in midfield, he blew the whistle. But there was not the slightest such situation in this match. It was the case that the team that had the ball immediately and irresistibly stormed forward. After all, it still had to let the attack run. But if the attack was intercepted (often by huge coincidences, since there was no defence left on the pitch at all), then there was immediately the equally irresistible forward rush of the other team. The referee, even with the best will in the world, simply had no opportunity to blow the whistle.
South Korea themselves had two points after this game, as they had still taken the one point from the Spaniards. That meant they had to win against Germany in the last game, one way or the other. This makes their offensive drive in the game described earlier even easier to understand. A goal against, a goal for Bolivia, would not have changed their starting position at all. They had to beat Germany. And if they succeeded, they would be through.
And this game is also worth remembering. For me, above all, because I simply cannot understand the (mis)assessment. Germany had indeed taken a 3-0 lead in the first half with some really great goals. But purely in terms of play, South Korea had kept up well anyway. Besides, at some point you have to take an opponent “seriously” from a German point of view. They had won a draw against one of the great nations. And that, at most, was by luck. Germany was simply “flat” in the second half. They couldn’t take any more, or had they already ticked off the game? In any case, South Korea came back to 2:3, just like against Spain. And then there was a bombardment of the German goal. Shot after shot. And how lucky they were and how little I begrudged them that!
Sure, I was “biased”. I had my money on the game. A German elimination would have been such a (financial) feast. But to be in that game for South Korea, I didn’t need a money stake. I guess I would have voluntarily given up all my money if only the Germans had been knocked out. But nobody understands me. Well, the usual happened. Germany held on for 3:2 and, as usual, won the group.
Remarkable still group F: that Holland, as expected, became group winner was nothing special. But how they won the group was more special. They were level on points and goals with Saudi Arabia! Both teams had 6 points and 4:3 goals at the end, but Holland had won the direct comparison. Many people must have forgotten this, who once again took the German 8:0 victory over the Saudis in the first match of the 2002 World Cup for “granted” and regarded the Saudis as “cannon fodder”. But as soon as Germany performs, the world just turns a bit differently…
Of course, the best game for me was the USA – Colombia match. All the money was on “secret favourite” Colombia, except mine. That had been on the counter-event “Out with Colombia”. After the opening defeat against Romania, Colombia simply had to win the match. The whole world knew that. Except me and Pablo Escobar. He deflected the ball into his own goal, unfortunate in my opinion. The goal made me a lot of money, but it cost the Colombian defender a lot. Not money, but his whole life. Two weeks later he was murdered. For me, however, the celebrations after this, the most expensive game of my life, were rather scarce. It was 2:30 at the final whistle. I drank a glass of vodka (the only thing I could find) and went to bed blissfully.
Of course, people often ask you, “What was your biggest win?” Only it is in principle the case that after my exhaustive but still leaving everything open 5-minute answer, the questioners would withdraw their question if they could already get a word in edgewise. “I didn’t really want to know that precisely.” With your meanwhile built up understanding (that for my sick psyche I mean) I can answer here yes:
This game was emotionally the one with the highest swing in my life. Because Colombia was irrevocably eliminated, that was certain. The collected (assumed) stakes on victory in the game itself may also have been very high. But the equity gain from the result was certainly not so gigantic. After all, the very high bets on Colombia advancing were no longer worth so much after the opening defeat against Romania. So they had lost a lot of equity. This loss was in our favour, as we had already won the lost equity on these bets, even if only mathematically. So when I talk about a swing of DM 120,000, this figure is actually wrong.
So if Colombia had won the match, then advancing would still have been preceded by a corresponding result from the final match against Switzerland. And it is even possible that a draw would not have been enough to advance. But even otherwise, the victory or the draw against Switzerland would not have been 100%. Apart from that, another considerable part of the bets was on Colombia to win the group. And this part was also lost immediately after the defeat, but would also have been completely lost with a draw. The equity on the bets on winning the group was much smaller than that on advancing.
I guess that the immediate profit with this game was 60000 DM. The swing may really have been DM 120,000. Only because the bets had the already lower equity, there might be an objective gain, i.e. the equity gain, of 30000 DM. Of course, this would no longer make it the most expensive game of my life, nor the highest profit of my life.
Apart from that, the question about the highest profit does not necessarily refer to a game but perhaps to a day, a weekend, a special bet? We don’t know. So, I guess the five minutes are up. And my explanations have not brought any enlightenment. For me, at least, the page was white before and is now black in large parts. There’s really no question of “enlightenment”.
Germany played Belgium in the round of 16. There might have been one or the other “tougher opponent”, but according to my stupid computer calculations, the Belgians had a 25% chance of advancing. If there were that many percentages, at least they were not realised in this game. But when the Belgians scored the 2:3 connecting goal shortly before the end (Albert), I can at least mention that I stood on the (home) table again for a few minutes. Because Belgium was really putting on the pressure now. But luck, skill, fate (?) were once again on Germany’s side. Pope in the pocket, God German, you don’t know. Nevertheless, I was able to leave the table unharmed. But the height and the occasion were not enough for a death leap anyway.
After all, there was still a quarter-final, semi-final and final to stop the Germans. And it became more and more a private feud between me and German luck. But it was actually used up in the quarter-finals. I’ll say the names, just for me, they roll off the tongue better than truffle or oyster: Hristo Stoichkov and Yordan Letchkov. Stoichkov with a converted free kick, Letchkov with the “diving header”. 2:1 for Bulgaria.
And with the objectivity so easy in winning and the nonchalance thus gained, I may remark: Germany was really unlucky in this game. They deserved to lead 1:0 through Rudi Völler. And then came a scene that many surely do not have the memory it deserves (you are the exception, of course). Andy Möller fired and actually let it rip. The noise, however, was caused by the ball, which only hit the post. But what do we have Rudi Völler for, the man with the wonderfully developed sense of smell, even if it is one-sided. So he “smelled” where the ball went and was there, pushing the rebound over the line.
That in itself is nothing unusual and has been seen and experienced in 1000 previous scenes. Only the consequence here had a unique character, but only up to that point: the assistant raised the flag, the referee blew the whistle. Offside. The surprise was great on all sides. But it was possible to reconstruct: When Möller shot, Rudi Völler was actually closer to the opposing goal line than at least two opposing players. In this respect, this fulfilled the conditions for offside. So the announcer agreed with the decision. Only, such a situation had never been ruled offside in the past.
It was the case that if there was a direct shot on goal, there was no offside, that was self-evident. And if the ball bounced and came back, there was no question of “offside”. It was, if I may put it in terms of the rules, without this being mentioned, “a new playing situation”. The goal kick was the one game situation that was “concluded” with a goal kick. After that, a new situation arises. As I said, that was a way of interpreting it, as it was simply handled in practice, without mentioning it any further. Möller-Völler changed this interpretation on that day (for my benefit, but only temporarily; the money I earned from the Germans’ elimination was of course collected by me and not donated to the rules commissions; temporarily only insofar as this form of rule interpretation has constantly annoyed me ever since). Only no one has ever said it, not even that, and no rule has been explicitly changed. Before, the whistle was blown like this, since then like this. That’s how rule changes come about, on the basis of a mysterious agreement. I still don’t understand the background to this. Lawyers call it “making an example”?
Well, Germany was out. Later on, the media talked about a “catastrophic World Cup”. So if Germany doesn’t at least make it to the final, it’s simply a national disaster at the very least. The rest of the world audibly breathed a sigh of relief in Germany. We are and will remain world champions for all time. But what is supposed to set the team apart from the others in terms of play, tactics, running and mentality remains obscure. That’s just the way it is. Germany is a tournament team. Basta. And, not to forget, “the German virtues”. Well then.
As many details as I may have remembered in the preliminary round, this noticeably diminished as the tournament progressed. For me, the special time at a World Cup is always when all the teams are still in the tournament, when I can watch (and bet on) as many exotic matches as possible. If the others always say: “Now it’s really getting exciting,” then it’s not boring for me, but it’s certainly not “particularly exciting” either.
And I get depressed when I see a final like that, where once again two “greats” meet, this year Brazil and Italy, and the teams on the whole “don’t want to take any risks” (what is risk, actually? The risk of losing? After the penalty shoot-out at the latest, someone has lost), actually “part” with a 0:0 score, but are not allowed to part and are condemned to play roulette in public, albeit of the Russian variety. I simply don’t watch the penalty shoot-out. Not because I “can’t stand it because of excitement”, but because it’s totally boring and uninteresting to me, more like a nuisance.
There are some “heroes” who perform the heroic deed of being “shot” by a condemned man led to the slaughter, who knows full well that if he now “fails” an entire nation will be thrown into mourning, although he can do nothing, nothing at all about it. By chance, the goalkeeper chose the same corner as he did and got the ball off. There are no good and bad performances and no heroes and no failures. There is only, if at all, a game of chance, which is played out in public and is supposed to give birth to heroes, but also to failures. These are then also publicly denounced and ostracised. How did it go in ancient Rome? Gladiator fights?
Wasn’t it Roberto Baggio, of all people, the best Italian in the tournament, who had also converted 16 out of 16 penalties for his country, who kicked the penalty into the clouds in the final, artificial showdown? I only hope for his sake that his reputation in Italy has not suffered as a result. Whether he personally ever got over it, I don’t know. He has my greatest sympathy. But I can always easily assign sympathy to tragic heroes. But to elevate the exclusively lucky winners to hero status? That is simply ridiculous. If they would at least say it afterwards, admit it. Let them be happy for all I care. But please, say in the first interview: “It was luck, luck, luck and nothing but luck. We thank you for it. But we know about it.”