I was delighted to see Germany beat Portugal 3-1 in last night’s World Cup 3rd place play-off. They deserved it on the night, but more particularly for their earlier exploits which contrasted sharply with a mean-spirited and boring approach by Portugal.
All the reports from Germany stress how the local population have all been lifted by the exploits of the national team, from whom little was expected before the tournament began. German performance in pre-tournament friendly matches had been woeful and Klinsmann’s management practices had been derided both in Germany and abroad.
Yet come the tournament itself, the Germans played positive attacking football and were clearly a well motivated group of players. They almost made it to penalties against Italy in the semi-final and might well have triumphed if it had come to spot-kicks.
All this caused me to reflect on the possible comparison between Germany now and Ireland in the late-80’s and early 90’s.
The Irish economy was struggling at the time that Jack Charlton got us to the Euro 88 finals in Germany. Although knocked out at the group stage by the Dutch, we beat England 1-0 and the entire country went mad. The tournament was the start of mass soccer hysteria in Ireland, which lasted and grew through Italia 90 & USA 94.
Drawing 1-1 with England and making it to the quarter-finals, where Toto Schillaci ended our dreams, made Italia 90 a huge national success. The highlight of USA 94 was Ray Houghton’s goal in Giant’s Stadium as we beat Italy 1-0. People danced in the streets, the country came to a stop for each game - even though some of the football played by Ireland was unattractive rubbish. We understood that a win is a win, regardless of the beauty of the thing.
And about that time the Celtic Tiger was born. Bertie Ahern & Co repeatedly take credit for the strong and sustained economic growth experienced in Ireland since the early 90’s - but I have a suspicion that the boost to the national psyche delivered by the international footballing exploits of the Charlton era helped provide a major impetus. Not only did we begin to see ourselves as potential winners on the international stage, but the fans travelling abroad found that they were almost universally liked and well received. They became unpaid goodwill ambassadors for the country and their exemplary conduct and good humour, even though habitually drunk, was a huge contrast to the thuggish behaviour, at the time, of English and Dutch fans in particular.
Which brings me back to Germany 2006. The German economy, the economic engine of Europe since the 1950‘s, has been very sluggish in recent years. Much of this can be attributed to the burden of the huge ongoing cost of German re-unification in 1990. National confidence has been at a post-war all-time low.
However, the election of Angela Merkel as Chancellor in November 2005 has given the country a boost. Merkel has made a very positive impact internationally in her first 8 months in office and seems to have achieved much increased popularity at home. Economic reforms are slowly being implemented, though compromises between the “grand coalition” parties have inevitably taken the sharp edges off them.
Could the new optimism engendered by the success of the national football team, coupled with the very positive impressions of both Germany and it’s people which all media coverage of the World Cup has promulgated, provide a launch pad for a Teutonic Tiger?
I think it’s time to invest in a DAX Tracker, this could be a good time to put some money into the Deutsche Bourse. The downside risk must be very limited.
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