Friday, June 25, 2010
(As Hurst breaks free, fans run onto the pitch, thinking the full time whistle has blown) 'There are some people on the pitch. They think it's all over. (Hurst's shot almost breaks the net)...It is now.'
It immortalised Wolstenholme, even though I watched a full rerun of the match recently and his commentary is otherwise hopeless. He gets the name of most players wrong and barely has anything of interest to say beyond the quotidian. But that one line lives on.
That was last taste of footballing success against the Germans for some time, as if a curse had been placed on England when the Russian linesman made his game-changing decision (Boston Red Sox fans take note. You're not the only ones to do hopeless, pessimistic superstition). Four years later, defending their title in Mexico, England took a 2-0 lead against West Germany in the quarter-finals. Alf Ramsey, the victorious coach of '66, decided to take off Bobby Charlton, England's talisman. England wilted in the heat, and Germany surged back to win 3-2. In 1990 England scrambled through to the semis of the World Cup. They came up against a mighty German side, crammed with winners. England played well, arguably deserved to win, but it was 1-1 at the end of extra time. Cue penalties. Cue inevitability. Germany won.
When the same thing happened in 1996, pessimism seemed to be widespread: we just couldn't beat Germany. Stereotypes took hold. They had Teutonic ice in their veins. We had ants in our pants. When it came to pressure, they thrived, while we choked. Believing we had little chance on the pitch, some England fans in the stands took to taunting Germany in increasingly juvenile ways. They would sing the theme tune to Dambusters and spread their arms out like aeroplane wings. Or they would start chanting 'Two World Wars and One World Cup doo-dah doo-dah', forgetting Germany had won several more World Cups than us. It was all extremely juvenile and did the country no favours whatsoever. When it came to Germany, we seemed incapable of growing up.
That said, it is the main topic of conversation. Who will win? Is Rooney fit? Who will play alongside him up front? Where will you be watching the game? This England team has been very poor so far. They will have to play much better, but they are capable of doing so and have a great deal of big match experience throughout the team. Germany, in contrast, have played some good football, but are a young team with less of an aura about them than their more illustrious predecessors. If they play without fear England could be in trouble. But I just have a sneaking feeling that England will snatch it by a single goal.
As long as it doesn't go to penalties. Please don't let it go to penalties. England have a 17% win record in penalty shootouts in major tournaments. The Germans have 71%.
Ice in their veins, you know. *Spreads arms wide* Der der- der der dada der der, der....
at 7:14 AM