Lucky England. Poor Swedes. That is the summary after the last four matches of Groups A and B. It was great to see how both teams tried to avoid playing Germany in the last 16.
The best scene of the England v Sweden match came shortly after the Swedes equalised for the second time and pressed for the winner. Steven Gerrard got hold of the ball and hoofed it into Row Z in an attempt to hang on to England’s lead in the group just so they could play Ecuador.
Undoubtedly both sides had seen Germany hammer the South Americans in the afternoon in what must have been the best performance of any team at World Cup 2006. Forget about the Argentines’ 20-odd pass move – Germany efficiently needed half as many touches to put the ball in the back of the net. I cannot believe I did not back Miroslav Klose to become top scorer at 27-1 prior to the tournament.
I wouldn’t have thought that I would write so euphorically about Deutschland, but the recent improvements have been massive. Ecuador only got into our half when they had to restart the match after conceding another goal. Now all Germany expects nothing less than victory – especially if the other teams rest their best players when they play us.
Before the England game I got asked by a big, tattoo- riddled Yorkshireman, whom I met in a pub outside Cologne’s RheinEnergieStadion, how big a deal a last-16 encounter with England would be for Germans.
Well, try to answer that one without offending anyone. Bear in mind that Germany have been to 12 finals in major competitions and England to one. I replied with another question: “How big a deal do you think is it for Man United supporters to play West Brom in the third round of the FA Cup – at home?” Then I ran away.
The best thing about my day in Cologne was that I managed to get into the ground. Don’t ask me how but all I needed was a used ticket for Switzerland v Togo, a match that had been played the previous day in Dortmund. The ticket controls at the World Cup are worse than anybody could have imagined.
Being Germany’s Comedy Ambassador in the United Kingdom, I shall cross my fingers for England in their next three matches.
Winning the World Cup is one thing but beating you in the final gives me bragging rights for the rest of my days. Even if they might be numbered.