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Sunday June 29 2008

I have a prediction to offer as to the result of the Euro Cup Final this evening.  I predict that Germany will win.  I could be wrong, because I am not an expert on football, but I am plainly right in supposing, as I have ever since this tournament began, that Germany are a very good side.  I only wish I had blogged my earlier predictions in various mere conversations that they would (and Holland would not) reach the final.

There are, this time, no British teams involved in this tournament, not even England.  And it is becoming ever more embarrassing listening to British “experts” taking it in turns on the television to describe Germany as “poor” and “ordinary” and “mediocre” and “not what they were in ...” (fill in the blank with a random date from the past).  Does it not occur to these – in this matter – pathetically inexpert experts that there might actually be reasons why you should “never write off the Germans”, and that if said inexperts were doing their jobs properly they would give some thought to what exactly these reasons might be, and tell us about them?

Germany almost always do better in later rounds, when they really need to, than in earlier rounds, when it isn’t fatal.  (Or in non-crucial qualifying games.  They got to the final after that one.  England got nowhere near the final.  This time around, they lost 2-1 to Croatia in one of their group games.  Holland, on the other hand ...) Germany regularly get to finals that they were confidently described as not good enough to get to by inexpert experts, only a fortnight or a month before.  Why?  And what is more, when they get there, they frequently win.  Why?  If it ever goes to a penalty shoot-out, they damn near always win.  Again, why?  I don’t know.  But clearly there are reasons, to do with spirit, and not being over-cooked too early, or exhausted, or prepared in such a way that they freeze on the big night.  Maybe they do exhaust themselves a few times, and then practice penalties, with huge cash prizes to the winners, or nights out, and then in, with all the Miss Germany finalists.  I don’t know, I really don’t.  But clearly, Germany does lots of vital things superbly well, and better than almost anybody else.  What?  How?  Real experts would find out, and pass it on.

Lots of things like: score great goals, goals being the things you need at this level of the game.  Schweinsteiger has scored two absolute blinders in this tournament already.  Remember Portugal?  They were one of the “great” sides in this tournament, until “poor” Germany knocked them out.  That first German goal against Portugal was a masterpiece of energy, speed and above all nanosecond timing, with the cross being met by Schweinsteiger going at full tilt at the one exact moment that made scoring possible.  The first German goal against Turkey, the first equaliser, was likewise brilliantly taken by Schweinsteiger.  This came from another perfect cross, but this time, instead of merely meeting it perfectly, Schweinsteiger deflected it perfectly.

image

Schweinsteiger is already in the Gary Lineker class as a finisher, in fact he reminds me very much of Lineker in the way he scores his goals.  The commentators all yell “Schweinsteiger!!!” just as he scores, exactly as they used to yell “Lineker!!!” as he scored.  Usually it’s: here’s a chance for Buggins, and Buggins shoots, and Buggins scores!!!  But when Schweinsteiger scores, there’s scarcely time to say his name once, let alone twice or three times, because the commentator only realises that Schweinsteiger has a chance to score as Schweinsteiger is scoring, that’s how blindingly quickly it all happens.

And here’s another thing I noticed about Schweinsteiger that no British “expert” seemed to spot.  If he did, he kept it to himself.  In that Portugal game, Schweinsteiger took an early free kick.  He ran up and blasted it as hard as he possibly could, in the general direction of the Portuguese goal.  Of course it bounced off some hapless Portuguee who had been put in the line of fire, and the Portuguese all said: he’s a thick blond German.  So, when Schweinsteiger took his next free kick, the commentators and the Portuguese both said: he’ll blast this one too.  Again, I wish I’d been live-blogging when I watched this.  I said: no, this will be a real free kick, curving in, and headed in.  And that’s just what happened.

Yet, say the doltish Brit commentators, only Ballack in this German side has any class.  Are they blind as well as stupid?  The very least that these “expert” Brit commentators could do is acknowledge what everyone else knows, that Germany are, now as always, extremely good at football, and good bets to win any tournament they enter.  If these Brits on the sidelines don’t know why, they shouldn’t regard that as any reflection on Germany, only on themselves.

If and when these British pundits do ever crack what Germany are doing so right, maybe British teams will start doing better in these things.