So a potential world cup classic looms on the horizon with the old enemy, and all the other cliches and jingoistic clap trap that will undoubtedly emerge in the tabloids to obfuscate and emotionally charge the match in entirely the wrong way.
Of course, the standard reaction in this country has been one of fear, i.e look at Germany they swash-buckled their way past Australia and we should worry. Which is nonsense. They did play well against 10 man Australia, but as an appraisal of their merits, the match offers little by way of truth.
But the response of people over here says a lot about the national psyche – we have a habit, often borne out of fear, insecurity or downright superstition, of putting every other team (especially the germans) on a pedestal and marveling at their superior football or mental strength.
In reality the Germans adhere to a basic psychological tenet: believe in yourself. If you have watched any of the BBC coverage of the World Cup this year you would have seen the exasperation etched firmly over Jurgen Klinsmann’s face whenever he has to discuss England with a sad-eyed, needy Gary Linekar.
The German cannot understand why the English are so glass-half-empty about everything. Despite an excellent qualification, and a decent, if flawed game against the USA, the game against Algeria was, in the eyes of Lineker et al, evidence of England’s inferiority and we were destined to go out…weren’t we Jurgen? Please save me with your soothing words and your robust mental strength.
There is a name for the collective rise and fall of the English public’s opinion about the England team – the knee-jerk reactions that characterize the way we regard them, the approach that preordains that every England manager must be the antithesis of the one before, the mantra that dictates that everything we had hitherto lauded about Fabio Capello – his no-nonsense style, his strictness, his uncompromising nature – should crumble and fall to dust and be the bane of the team as soon as we put on a below par showing. That word is neurosis. A persistent, debilitating mental condition that translates to our players and has metastasized into one of those awful self-fulfilling prophecies whose actual origins are a fallacy.
The worse thing about it is that the Germans, and other nations, actually thrive off of our anxieties and mentally have a certain sense of security, or have even traditionally defined themselves by the fact we are an opposite; as we are bad at penalties, they become good. It is how they are, it is ingrained in their psyche. But it’s all nonsense, and as with anything in your head, you have the power to change it at any moment.
It may be rooted in the fall out from the empire and the erosion of Britain’s imperial power, and it’s mass manifestation in tabloid journalism has undoubtedly caused us great harm; this constant vacillation between triumph and tragedy, delight and despair, England was an individual they would be diagnosed with bi-polar disorder in a second.. It seems we are utterly unable to objectively appraise our national team.
So I am going to do It now. We have some excellent players, and we have shown glimpses of being a good team. Forget all those people who say England have bad technique, or their players are overrated, its all rubbish – what’s true is that we get incredibly anxious; Fabio Capello knows it, and it has represented the only serious danger to his chances of success.
We should beat Germany – I expect us to. Beyond that, we may not win it, Spain and Brazil (although not as scary as some claim) are better units, and we could very well fall to Argentina in the next round.
But let us not be fainthearted or scared, let us not walk around espousing bogus claims that Germany are an amazing football team because they are not, they are decent, and have some promising players, but there is nothing to fear there. Let us be confident and not nervous, focused and not neurotic. Instead of resigning ourselves to a glorious failure and talking about penalties already, understand that at some stage we will break the self imposed hoodoo – all things come to an end. This is a good time to face our demons.