An American perspective of the World Cup, while in Germany

by Chris Johannes

Prerequisites for a first-timer in Germany during the World Cup:

Pick the results of World Cup games. Check.

Consume the black, red and gold of the German flag in the form of fortune cookies. Check.

Find a public viewing to attend. Check.

Yep. I, the American, was determined to start the World Cup off on the right foot living in Osnabruck, Germany, working as an intern in the New Osnabruck Newspaper’s sports department.

Did I mention the beer? Yes, buying beer — and enough beer — is very important. You need beer to prepare for the games, to cheer during the games, to celebrate a win and to excuse/explain/forget a loss.

After a rather generic opening ceremony, the weekend’s first-round games were watchable. Brazil, my favorite to win the championship, recovered from a shaky start to dispatch Croatia 3-1.

Holland or the Netherlands, whichever you prefer [I personally like to refer to them as the radioactive-orange-clad tulips], slaughtered Spain 5-1.

During halftime of that game, I was walking through the Altstadt in Osnabruck and heard “Holland, Holland, Holland” cheers ringing from the streets as cars peeled out. I assume they were either out of beer or going to be out of beer shortly.

But this is Germany, where I think drivers are morally obligated to speed towards foreigners who aren’t properly using crosswalks. After 16 days in Germany, I am sure that the round stickers on license plates indicate how many jaywalkers you’ve corrected…

Back to the soccer: England lost on Saturday, which normally seems favorable in Germany; however, it was Italy who beat the Brits. I assume the only desirable outcome in Germany would have been for both teams to lose after a slew of red cards.

It’s interesting how quickly after one’s national team loses they mention which players were left off the national squad or how much better Manchester United or Liverpool is than the national team — even when these fans repeatedly say “how little” they care about the World Cup.

France won decisively 3-0 over Honduras despite the French coach saying his team was spied with a drone airplane. I will refrain from making any jokes about the French … for now.

Which brings us to Monday — Germany vs. Ronaldo (oops, “Portugal”) and the United States vs. Ghana. I watched Germany’s game projected on a 4-meter screen with about 40 people squeezed into a room no bigger than 6×6 meters in a student housing apartment.

About half of the fans were from Germany and the others from around the world — the UN would be proud. No fights, not too much cussing and lots of beer. Even some Americans wore German soccer uniforms.

Every play in Germany’s 4-0 triumph was ‘schön;’ at least that’s what the Germans kept singing. It should’ve been 5-0, but Sami Khedira missed an early open net. That turned out OK for Germany because Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo couldn’t miss Germany’s one-man wall on free kicks.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, cheered on Germany from the stands and then posed for photos with half-clad players in the German locker room. In Germany, “Angie” is sometimes labeled as being a populist and as never missing an opportunity for a photo op.

I napped during the Iran-Nigeria “workout” — not so much a game as the 0-0 result proved.

That was another wise choice for this American, who co-leads the newspaper’s sports department’s pick’em game (“Tippspiel” in German) after the first-round matches.

Speaking of Americans, how about those Yanks? Clint Dempsey’s left-footer found the right goalpost just 32 seconds into the match. The Americans nursed their 1-0 lead for the next 79 minutes until Ghana evened it at 1-1.

But it was the American response in the 86th minute, which may be dismissed. In previous World Cups, America likely ends the game in a 1-1 tie with Ghana, but not Monday.

U.S. Coach Jurgen Klinsmann was heavily criticized for roster moves before the World Cup — especially without Landon Donovan. And when Jozy Altidore left the game on a stretcher after injuring his hamstring, the press was primed to rip Klinsmann.

However, Klinsmann was helped with 21-year-old John Brooks’ deciding goal in the 86th minute. Brooks’ German-American nationality is hyphenated like many other U.S. players and his goal directly bolstered American confidence in Klinsmann’s management, when it gave the United States a 2-1 win.

Germany’s next game against Ghana and the United States’ next game against Portugal will be pivotal and set the stage for a possible U.S.-Germany, winner-take-all, Group-K finale.

So in the next week from Osnabruck: More beer, more soccer, more goals and more beer.

(Chris Johannes is an intern for the New Osnabruck Newspaper from June through August. He graduated from the University of Southern Indiana with degrees in journalism and German and is living in Germany for the first time.)

Chris Johannes also writes for the New Osnabruck Newspaper in Osnabruck, Germany. His World Cup column can be found here in German.

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