There's four hours left until the Epic Clash begins.
Germany vs Spain. Two beloved teams, one World Cup semifinal.
I've been hoping for a Germany-Spain semi since the Group of 16 was settled. Now that we're here, I couldn't be more nervous and excited. I have many friends who are Spain girls, and I really can't blame them - Spain is a team of sweethearts, pretty faces, and lots of talent. In any other game, I would (and did!) root for them happily.
But now they're up against Die Mannschaft, and there is no question where my loyalties lie. I first became enchanted with this team of upstarts in 2006, when I managed to catch a handful of their games in the World Cup. I was a casual viewer, rooting for whoever I thought was playing the nicest football - I liked Germany and France
, for goodness sake. But Germany's the team that stayed in my heart. Even though I didn't follow them in the Bundesliga or the Euro 2008, I still remembered tiny Philipp Lahm, the fast and deadly defender/attacker of my heart. I remembered Poldi and Schweini and their adorable antics. I remembered Mom and Dad (Frings and Ballack) and how all the little ones looked up to them. I remembered Klose and his awesome flips.
So when we geared up for this World Cup, I knew exactly where my heart belonged. I started reacquainting myself with names and faces, orienting myself to the fact that Micha was no longer around and introducing myself to the new generation - Mueller, Oezil, Khedira, Neuer, Badstuber, Boateng. I became fond very quickly. I eagerly found a perfect place to watch the Germany-Australia game, and could not stop the screams of glee as each goal found the back of the net - 1, 2, 3, 4. Four goals! In an opening round of lackluster games and low goal counts, Germany dazzled the world, and suddenly everyone was touting my boys as favorites for the Cup. I was elated.
Fast forward through a mildly rocky campaign (but only mildly - even playing with 10 men and Klose on the bench, Germany stood their ground admirably against Serbia and really should have scored), and Die Mannschaft has completely dazzled everyone again. With two more four-goal thrashings, against much more formidable opponents, these boys have truly shown everyone what they are made of. They have redefined teamgeist
with flair and heart. Even the numbers show how much the entire team is involved - goals and assists by at least half of the team, and even our center back, the beloved Friedrich, coming up to pop in a goal off of Schweinsteiger's dazzling run. We have new faces wowing the world; we have "old" faces maturing into leaders, on and off the pitch. (Though on this team, age 25 counts as old!) The whole team has gelled in a way that not even the team itself expected. This is even more impressive considering what the run up to the tournament looked like for these boys - they lost their goalkeeper to a shocking and tragic suicide, and they lost their captain and other players to injury. But each blow only seemed to make them stronger. Jogi Loew, a lovely case of continuity for the team in that he was their assistant coach in 2006, has shown real intelligence and instinct in putting together this team, placing his trust in players whose self-confidence was waning (Klose, Podolski) and bringing up boatloads of new talent. His contribution cannot be understated.
In conclusion, I love this team. So many people, once neutral, love this team. How can you not? Their play has been intelligent, fun, cooperative, clean, and downright astonishing.
While I'm here, a link: Schweinsteiger: Spain are the World's Best
. A phenomenal interview with my personal favorite, Bastian Schweinsteiger (just saying his name gives me a thrill!), in which he demonstrates maturity, class, humility, and sweetness. I love him so much.
And one more: A letter from Die Mannschaft to the fans
. Their sweetness and gratitude makes my heart swell ten sizes. They are so proud to be representing their country, and I love them for it!
If Die Mannschaft keeps up its incredible form and teamgeist, I have every confidence that they can win today. But I know that no matter what it's going to be an epic clash between two teams that respect each other highly. Good luck to both, and may the best team win!