Michael Burgess ' Opinion

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess: When it rains, Germany can't lose

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United States' Clint Dempsey gets tangled with Germany's Per Mertesacker, left, and Germany's Jerome Boateng. Photo / AP
United States' Clint Dempsey gets tangled with Germany's Per Mertesacker, left, and Germany's Jerome Boateng. Photo / AP

It's not supposed to rain much in Brazil - and any future opponents of Germany in this World Cup should hope the heavens don't open again soon.

Die Mannschaft gain belief from a 60-year-old legend, which according to some fans made them unbackable favourites in today's Group G clash with the USA.

Some areas of Recife were almost submerged by the tropical downpours this morning, but the German fans couldn't stop smiling.

"We can't lose now," one supporter explained as he sipped a Skol beer, "this is Fritz Walter weather."

One of Germany's legendary players, Walter was captured by the Russians while serving as a solider in World War Two. He spent time in a Soviet Gulag, also contracting malaria during that time.

After returning to Germany the disease meant he tended to struggle in warmer temperatures, but excelled in the rain and cold.

The legend began after the 1954 World Cup final between Hungary and West Germany, now recognised as the 'Miracle of Berne'. The Germans had lost 8-3 in the group stages and were huge underdogs against Ferenc Puskas and the magical Magyars' , but inspired by Walter and in teeming rain contrived to win 3-2.

Since then, so the legend goes, Germany has never lost a match when the skies opened.
The Europeans always had the edge today in Recife - though it was a intensely competitive match, with no hint at any stage that both teams would settle for a draw.

Somewhat of a footballing joke just a few decades ago, Team USA has evolved into a respectable force on the world stage.

They have now reached the knock-out stages in two of the last three World Cups, and Juergen Klinsmann has added a technical edge to their traditional strengths - defensive organisation and physical conditioning.

The atmosphere inside Arena Pernambuco was brilliant from the start, even if a lot of fans missed the kick-off. The rain had created chaos in Recife, with the water reaching mid-tyre level in some places. It felt like you needed a James Bond type aqua car from Thunderball or The Man with the Golden Gun, but locals ploughed on nonetheless.

The stadium is spectacular - with steeply banked grandstands and a compact 41,000 capacity (just what we need in Auckland!). Plonked in the middle of nowhere, it is also quite clearly unfinished, a bit like Recife itself.

"It feels like the government stopped spending any money here in the 1970s," commented travelling fan Warwick Eade, from Auckland, who has attended the previous three World Cups. "The place has a lot of potential so it is a real shame."

There are some lovely streets, beautiful facades and even a few canals but little has been maintained, which gives the city of 1.5 million a gritty, albeit rundown feel
Today's match was ultra competitive from the start, Germany dominating possession but the USA always dangerous on the counter attack. There was also a lot at stake in the coaching boxes, with Klinsmann determined to prove a point against his former deputy Joachim Loew.

In the end the match came down to a moment of supreme skill by Thomas Mueller, a perfectly placed side foot shot hit first time from the edge of the area. Watching Mueller live you are struck by his work rate; he is one of the genuine stars at this tournament, a 26-year-old who already has nine World Cup goals to his credit but he tracks back and presses like an unproven rookie. It's the German way.

The European side had other chances but were consistently repelled by Tim Howard, while only a superb Phillipp Lahm block prevented an American equaliser in injury time.

So the Germans, as they have 'always' done since 1954, banked the points in the rain, while the American fans had the satisfaction of seeing their team play with verve and spirit, and also had their second round place confirmed after Ghana's 2-1 loss to Portugal.

- NZ Herald

Michael Burgess

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday. He was named the 2013 New Zealand football writer of the year and was a finalist in the Sports Reporter of the year at the 2014 Canon Media Awards.

Read more by Michael Burgess

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