As an eight-year-old I was mesmerised by the 1982 World Cup on RTE television and more specifically the majestic performances of Brazil and France. The vivid colours of the yellow Brazilian kit along with the classic French blue jerseys immediately caught my imagination not to mention the silky skills of either team.
The attacking philosophy of the South Americans seemed to suggest to their opponents that it didn’t matter how many you scored. We will always score one more than you. Socrates, Falcao, Eder, Junior and Zico. The exotic names just rolled off the tongue and many hours were spent attempting to emulate the Brazilian step-overs, curling shots with the outside of the slipper and of course, the Falcao goal celebration which unfortunately resulted in the accidental destruction of a vase in the McCarthy household.
It came as something of a shock to system then for a naive eight-year-old to witness a Paolo Rossi inspired Italy end the Brazilians seemingly nonchalant waltz towards the title on a sunny Seville afternoon. As disappointing as it was to have to say goodbye to the talented if ultimately flawed Brazilian side I was comforted by the fact that Platini’s French side were still in the tournament and producing counter-attacking performances just as impressive as the now departed South Americans.
Football can sometimes manifest sport in its cruellest form.
A French side studded with quality players such as Platini, Amoros, Giresse, Six and Tresor looked set to contest the World Cup final against the Italian side who had the temerity to knock out my beloved Brazilians. France quickly became my and many other kids new favourite team once the Brazilians had been knocked out. Playing with an almost carefree Ã©lan and joie de vivie, the French team flowed from one end of the pitch to the other dazzling their opponents with intricate passing the current Spanish team are more famous for.
Enter West Germany.
The German side that competed in Espana \’82 quickly earned the role of pantomime villains for the manner in which they qualified for the second phase of the tournament. Algeria recorded a 2-1 victory over Karl Heinz-Rumminege’s side in the opening phase, a result which sent shockwaves around the globe.
The final Group 2 encounter between West Germany and Austria descended into farce. Algeria had completed their final game the day before so West Germany and Austria knew a narrow German victory would send both sides through at the expense of the Africans. Horst Hrubesch netted after 10 minutes and both sides proceeded to knock the ball about in training-session mode for the remaining 80 minutes.
It was a disgrace to witness such a pathetic event unfold on TV and deplored by millions around the globe. The Germans stuttered past England and Spain in the second round to set up a meeting with France in the semi-finals.
If my heart had been broken witnessing the Brazilian exit at the hands of Paolo Rossi earlier in the tournament it was positively crushed with West Germany’s penalty shoot-out victory over the French. The events which transpired in Seville are recounted in a previous article.
The bottom line was that West Germany had destroyed the hopes and dreams of many football purists with their defeat of the enigmatic French. Platini’s team seemed destined to win the trophy that year only to be thwarted by a pragmatic, dull German side for who goalkeeper Ton Schumacher assumed the individual role of World Cup pantomime villain. Thankfully, Italy proved too strong in the final with pure, attacking football triumphed over autocratic pragmatism.
I hated Germany and its football team for many years after that whilst begrudgingly admiring their never-say-die attitude and constant success at reaching the latter stages of most international competitions.
Now in 2010 and during a less than memorable South African World Cup I find myself rooting for Joachim Loew’s new-look free-flowing German side. Maybe it is the emergence of so many nationalised Germans in the squad, maybe it is the fact Argentina and Brazil are turning into typically tough European sides, maybe it is because the Netherlands and Spain have yet to hit anything like top gear but I want the Germans to win this World Cup.
It is the magnificent ability of the likes of Podolski, Schweinsteiger, Ozil, Khedira, Mueller and Klose to counter-attack at pace and carve teams apart that has ignited my passion for German football. Most countries who have taken a lead during South Africa 2010 have sat back and attempted to defend their slender lead rather go for the kill. Not Germany.
They have put numbers behind the ball once a lead has been acquired that is for sure but Germany have also counter-attacked with such devastating speed that opponents are left reeling in the wake as a second, third and fourth goal (three times this tournament) has billowed the net.
Only Spain and either Netherlands or Uruguay stand in the Germans’ way of winning the 2010 World Cup. It would be a fitting and deserved tribute to Loew’s team if they could pull it off considering they have already defeated Argentina, England and Australia with such panache and Ã©lan. Terms previously used to describe the 1982 Brazilian and French teams.
I really hope the Germans win it this year… how times change.
Ger McCarthy is author of the book entitled \’Off Centre Circle’, published by the Evening Echo, which chronicles the curious life of a West Cork amateur soccer player.