“It was the best of times, it was one of the worst of footballing crimes.” Paul Doyle’s opening line in the Guardian two weeks ago took us back to darker World Cup days when skullduggary was all the rage and no-one ever mentioned the “M” world (Matchfixing). The Germans back then obviously had a “West” as company in the 1982 World Cup but no one was prepared for their defeat to the Algerians.
Fast forward thirty two years and eight World Cups and the Africans would have an opportunity for revenge. The German machine had simply re-invented itself every few years and whilst they were quietly confident coming into the tournament, few would have backed them to go all the way, especially as they are in the top half of the drawer, putting them on a collision course with the hosts in the semi-final.
I had a feeling this would be the game of the round, so I invested heavily in the Früh Kolsch and sat back, preparing to be entertained.
1. Why do goal keepers always seem to stand next to the captain? – I only noticed this on Saturday but since then almost every keeper when lining up for the national anthems has stood next to the captain.
2. Photographer with the hat – 16 minutes in and Algeria attack again. What a cross from El Arabi Soudani, Islam Slimani gets ahead of Jerome Boateng to fire in a low header in off the post. Alas he is offside and we get a close up of the linesman raising his flag. But hang on. The photographer behind him is wearing a Mexican hat. A bloomin’ big green wide brimmed Mexican hat. Arriba, arriba, andale, arriba! (thanks to Dan Campbell for sending me a screen shot).
3. The problem of sock tape – Stupid rule number 1332 from FIFA was the one about the tape that players use to keep their socks up has to be the same colour as the socks themselves. So can you use red tape on white socks if there is a red bit at the top of the socks, like Germany’s? What if you want two bits of tape, one at top and one at bottom? Do you need two different coloured tapes? And what about tape used around fingers for rings? Shouldn’t that be skin-coloured? FIFA once again not thinking through the really important aspects of these law changes (that was irony for the benefit of my German followers).
4. The cavity search – Mustafi falls awkwardly and lays face down as the German medical appear to be checking all his cavities. The TV cameras focus on his wincing face and then the physio’s gloved hand going up his shorts. Grown men around the world looked away in agony.
5. Neuer centre-back – Time after time the German keeper came off his line and out of his box to act as the last defender. His timing was impeccable, risking not only a goal if he missed a challenge but also a certain red if he took out the player. A sure sign of problems at the back for the Germans. Would a better side have taken advantage? Who knows…
The Beer World Cup
Like the earlier tie, there was never going to be any competition in this game. I could have chosen one of two hundred German beers (not that I have 200 different ones in my beer fridge, but you get the idea) whilst I have never seen an Algerian beer, let alone try to buy one. I went with a cheeky Kölsch option for tonight – light, smooth and less likely to give me a hangover than a Paulaner.
Germany 7 Algeria 0