World Cup Final 2014: Choosing between Germany and Argentina is an impossible choice
Perhaps the most sensible basis for a decision is the sport itself
To some die-hard England fans it will be an impossible choice: should you support Germany or Argentina in tomorrow’s World Cup final? Our own team’s involvement in the tournament is a distant memory, but sitting on the sidelines is no way to enjoy the climax of one of the most thrilling World Cups in recent memory.
So: how do you decide? Our fact panel may help you to rationalise the decision, but the basic difficulty remains: you are picking between two traditional enemies.
Forgiveness will be key. Even if we agree that it’s best not to mention any wars, there are decades of on-pitch conflict to take into account. It goes back at least as far as the 1966 World Cup, when England manager Sir Alf Ramsey called the Argentine players “animals” before England went on to beat Germany in the final, helped by a disputed goal.
Since then, both teams have had more than enough revenge: in Argentina’s case with with Diego Maradona’s “Hand of God” in 1986 and that incident with Diego Simeone and David Beckham in 1998. As for Germany, well, they’ve been punishing us ever since, not least in penalty shoot-outs.
Of course, it’s time to move on now – but in which direction? Whom do you forgive first? Some may be swayed by the thought that Germany is the UK’s number one trading partner, which has to count for something – whereas our trading relationship with Argentina is based on some historic arms sales and a branch of Harrods in Buenos Aires. But perhaps that’s too unromantic as the basis for such a choice.
What do our leaders think? David Cameron has told The Independent he’d like to see a European team win in South America. Ed Miliband will confirm only that he “supports England” (thanks for clearing that up Ed) “so doesn’t really have a preference”.
The Europhile Nick Clegg, now that his family ties to Spain and the Netherlands are no longer relevant, plumps for Germany, whom he tips “to win 3-1”. Nigel Farage, unusally, agrees with him, saying that “it will have to be Germany”.
This may have more to do with his German wife than with any softening of Ukip’s anti-European stance.
What about spiritual guidance? The current pope – who the Vatican says “might” watch the final – will presumably be supporting his native Argentina. However, his spokesman has “excluded categorically” the prospect that Pope Francis will sit down and watch it with his German predecessor Benedict XVI, who also resides in the Vatican and who some say is a Bayern Munich fan.
Perhaps the most sensible basis for a decision is the sport itself. Who plays the most beautiful football? On recent form, that suggests plumping for Germany – “Los Deutschland”, as the Germany fans say – except that, then again, there’s always Messi. Maybe our cultural comparison (right) isn’t such a bad way of deciding after all.
Facts you need to know about Germany
1. Chancellor: Angela Merkel
Economy: Europe’s largest; the world’s fourth largest; if anything, too strong
Population: 81 million
2. Multi-named literary giant: Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
3. Notorious footballing cheat: Harald Schumacher
4. Living: Vatican-based Pope Benedict XVI (retired 2013)
Politics: Beacon of democracy and coalition governance
5. Political father figure: Otto von Bismarck
6. Cuisine: Sausage-based
Fashion: Hugo Boss
7. Philosophers: Most of the big names (Kant, Hegel, Nietzsche (pictured), etc)
8. Composers: Ditto (Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Wagner, etc)
9. Pop icons: Kraftwerk
10. Dance: Schuhplattling
11. Regrettable military clashes with the UK: Two world wars
Vile (past) regimes: Nazis (1933-45) World Cup defeats of England that still rankle 1970, 1990, 2010
12. Greatest contribution to the 2014 World Cup: Their 7-1 defeat of the hosts, Brazil: the most dazzling World Cup semi-final triumph ever.
Where to watch: With pilsners and bratwurst at the German embassy party (invite only).
Facts you need to know about Argentina
1. President: Cristina Kirchner
Economy: Unstable; defaulted on $95bn of external debt in 2001; has defaulted on domestic debt three times since 1980
Population: 42 million
2. Multi-named literary giant: Jorge Luis Borges
3. Notorious footballing cheat: Diego ‘Hand of God’ Maradona
4. Living: Vatican-based Pope Francis I - Politics: Volatile democracy
5. Political mother figure: Eva Peron
6. Cuisine: Steak-based Fashion Generally just follows Europe
7. Philosophers: Er... Che Guevara?
8. Composers: Alberto Ginastera Pop icons None you’re likely to have heard of
9. Dance: Tango
10. Regrettable military clashes with the UK: The Falklands War (1982)
Vile (past) regimes: Assorted military juntas (eg 1930-46, 1966-73, 1975-83)
11. World Cup defeats of England that still rankle: 1986, 1998
12. Greatest contribution to the 2014 World Cup: The incomparable Lionel Messi.
Where to watch: No embassy party – to “avoid probable heart attacks”. Try Moo Cantina, Pimlico, instead.
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