At the intersection of writing and life with the author of the Cameron Ballack mysteries

Monday, July 14, 2014

World Cup Final Thoughts

The twenty-four year wait is over.

My son Joshua approached me last night when I was watching Inglourious Basterds and said, "Dad, I'm going to sleep well tonight."

I'm sure he did.

Joshua has shown rapt attention through the last three World Cups. He was less than a year old when France won on home soil in 1998, with a Zidane-led 3-0 win over defending champ Brazil. And he doesn't recall the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, as he was shy of five years old then. But by 2006, he had watched Luther and inhaled a good bit of German history and probably would've changed citizenship if he could. Plus, the World Cup was coming to Germany. 

The Mannschaft, as they are known, were only 22nd in the world going into the 2006 Cup, but Michael Ballack, Miroslav Klose, and company scrapped past expectations, and only a heartbreaking extra time semifinal loss to Italy kept them from glory. We--yes, the entire Davis family is behind Die Mannschaft--ended up second in the 2008 Euro Cup to Spain. We actually had landed in Berlin for Joshua's Make-A-Wish trip a few hours before the semifinal against Turkey, won on a Philipp Lahm worm burner with twenty seconds left. Berlin exploded around 10 pm and kept going until 4 am. No sleep.

It was then that we learned a Euro Cup semifinal engenders more passion across the pond than the Super Bowl, World Series, Stanley Cup finals, or NBA finals cause here in the States.

2010 saw a younger German team at the World Cup in South Africa, and Spain broke our hearts again. I honestly didn't know how much of this we--but especially Joshua--could take, and 2014 became a big bulls eye on our calendars.

What you saw was a destruction of Portugal, a gutty draw against Ghana, and a dominating win (though close in the scoring column) against the United States. Follow that up in the knockout phase with the scintillating extra time win over Algeria, the 1-0 win over France that was a carbon copy of the US win, all bringing us to the semifinal against host Brazil, which hadn't lost a competitive match on home soil since I was four years old. Wow.

Our house was in shock as the Germans scored four times in 400 seconds. Against Brazil. SO much for home field advantage. 

All of which led to a gut-wrenching Sunday. I sat in church, listening to the sermon but twinning that with anxiety and hope that coach Joachim Low would in fact start Lahm at defensive back. Before the game began, Joshua went into his bedroom to pray. That's how seriously he took it.

In the end, although draining us of every ounce of nerves, Die Mannschaft came through. Andre Schurrle--who had the winning assist--and Mario Gotze, who scored the chest-nudge, volley kick for the winning goal, were the only two German players on the field at that time who were born after the reunification of the Fatherland. It was as if the ugliness of the past gave way to the hope of the future. 

Now things move on toward 2018 in Russia, where the German team will be the hunted instead of the hunters. And I guarantee you Joshua will be praying, losing sleep, and above all hoping for another German conquest.

Those are my final thoughts.

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