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Author Topic: Party is over for Germany but Klinsmann spreads pride nationwide  (Read 907 times)

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Party is over for Germany but Klinsmann spreads pride nationwide

Michael Walker in Dortmund
Wednesday July 5, 2006
The Guardian

Dejected Klinsmann walks out of the arena.

The better team won - just. The accuracy of that assessment can be seen in the timing of Italy's two goals and here in sweaty Dortmund, in the stadium known as Germany's living room, there was no sense of outrage at Germany's departure. Nothing was thrown at the TV.
Italy had hit the woodwork twice in extra-time, after all, as well as beating Jens Lehmann twice so late. Even the most ardent German fan could not dispute that. Instead they sang You'll Never Walk Alone as the weary, bleary German team did a lap of honour.

Getting knocked out on your own patch so close to glory would not normally be the time for such a response but few home supporters can have arrived in Dortmund thinking Germany had not already achieved much simply by being here.
"Torsten Frings?" one said as he wandered through the press area in his white jersey, but even he admitted that Italy had deserved it. Frings had been the issue prior to kick-off but after the final whistle he felt less so. Frings, after all, had played alongside Michael Ballack and Bernd Schneider the last time the two teams met.

That was on March 1 in Florence when essentially this same German team were battered 4-1 by Marcello Lippi's side. The transformation in both countries fortunes since then is remarkable, but Germany's is wholly positive and Klinsmann, who now goes off to think about his future, was correct and rightly proud to say afterwards: "It's fantastic what we've seen in Germany, it's wonderful that football can stir these emotions, bring people together, create these moods.

"We had two aims at the beginning, to go as far as we could as a team and to be good hosts. I think these players can be proud, they have gone up to their limits, and again tonight."

There was no bleating, Klinsmann merely acknowledged that the Italians "had been more cold-blooded in front of goal than we were."

Considering the Frings episode in the build-up to the game and the accusation that Italian TV had effectively got the midfielder suspended, there was a lot of goodwill on view between the two teams and the two countries.

From March 1 Italy is also a football country transformed, but so negative was the feeling about the corruption trials involving Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina and Lazio that even the new prime minister Roman Prodi got involved yesterday. Prior to travelling to Dortmund Prodi sent an open letter to the German Chancellor Angela Merkel. In it Prodi congratulated Germany for the enthusiastic way it has staged the World Cup, stating that Germany is now a "reference point" for Italy culturally and economically.

Prodi added, mainly for domestic consumption it has to be said, that Italian football had to rid itself of "criminal elements" and required "profound reform" regardless of last night's result.

However, on the day it emerged that Juventus might be demoted two divisions due to the match-fixing scandal, Italy reached another World Cup final and for the way they caressed the ball around they deserve credit. Italian football, deeply flawed as it is structurally, retained sufficient credibility here to still be a reference point, certainly for the likes of England.

There was an emphasis on possession and it was not always sideways. In midfield Andrea Pirlo and Gennaro Gattuso are literally knitty-gritty and if Francesco Totti failed to spark, there was enough endeavour from those around him to suffice.

Endeavour, of course, is one of the defining characteristics of Klinsmann's Neu Germany. There is no slight meant in that either: the reason why there was no screeching from German fans was that so many appreciated what has happened under Klinsmann since March. They know Germany have over-achieved. A German team that contains players such as Bastian Schweinsteiger, who struggles to keep a place at Bayern Munich, knocked out the favourites Argentina.

That match ended in acrimony last Friday, and while there was a hint of nastiness from Jens Lehmann after Alessandro Del Piero had lifted in Italy's second, the main effect of the brawl with the South Americans was in Frings's subsequent late and controversial suspension.

Sebastian Kehl replaced Frings and did well to shackle Totti but Kehl does not do buccaneering they way Frings does. His presence was missed.

And so will Germany's be from the final. The Olympiastadion is so interesting as a venue that it guarantees a spectacle and the Italian fans will bring their own colour, but Germany would have been as fitting finalists.

Not only has the country staged the competition superbly and revealed itself again to be an authentic football nation, Klinsmann and his squad have brought plenty to the party. Klinsmann's aim was not to smuggle a weakish team through to the quarter-finals and bow out saying that was all that could be expected of such a group.

He demanded more, the power of positive thinking has rarely had such a good example to follow. And when both Italy and Germany calm down some time later today, both might agree to allow Germans to claim: We've still got the Pope.

Guardian Unlimited Guardian Newspapers Limited 2006
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