Thursday, July 8, 2010

A Tale of Two Countries

Here is a tale of two countries  from the World Cup: Uruguay and  Germany. When the Uruguayan team made the semi-finals of the World Cup last weekend, there was understandably a lot of celebrating all over the country. The last time the 2-time World  Cup champions (1930 and 1950) made the final four of the World Cup was in 1970. The country of 3.5 million people celebrated their team, which wasn't projected to make it out of the first round. Even when Uruguay lost a close game to the Netherlands in the semi-finals (3 to 2), Uruguayans were proud of how their team played with heart and determination, even when they were down 3-1. If the offsides goal that the Dutch scored was disallowed, like it should have been, Uruguay would have played even with one of the very best teams in the world. This feat was even more amazing because Uruguay played without three of its starters, who were out due to cards or injury. According to what I have been reading, there is still a lot of celebrating in Uruguay. When the team returns to Montevideo after playing the game for 3rd place this Saturday, they will be welcomed home as heroes. No matter how Uruguay does on Saturday, the players can hold their heads high and know that they surpassed everyone's expectations. 

The story was different in Germany. After making it out of group stages, Germany stormed to a 4-1 victory over England followed by a 4-0 win over powerful Argentina to get to the semi-finals. But they were defeated in their semi-final game by Spain 1-0. After those two wins in the earlier stages, Germany became the favorite to win the title. Suddenly the Germans felt that they should just be handed the World Cup trophy since they felt that they were going to win anyway. They had a "nobody can beat us" attitude that became arrogance. But the Germans have a recent history of not being able to win the big game and this curse struck again in the form of a superior Spanish team. After the game, the mood in Germany was like people found out that their whole family just got killed in a disaster.  As soon as the final whistle blew, people went home dejected. They couldn't believe that their team lost, even though being in the final 4 of the World Cup is a big honor. There were no parties celebrating the team after the semi-final loss. Even the team felt like they had failed since their goal in this World Cup was to improve on their 3rd place finish from 4 years ago.  In a display of poor sportsmanship, German captain Philip Lahm stated that he didn't feel like his team should have to play for 3rd place. The German team is scheduled to leave South Africa on Sunday and will be in transit back to Germany while the final game is being played. When they return home, they won't be met by huge crowds that are proud of their team. 

I think that I will cheer for Uruguay in the game for 3rd place on Saturday. Uruguay has nothing to lose and may surprise Germany, just like they surprised their other opponents in the tournament. I'd rather cheer for a team that is thrilled to be in its position than for one who acts like losing in the semi-finals of the World Cup is tantamount to failure.  Germany may just go through the motions of playing since they're so upset about their loss to Spain, while Uruguay will probably play with the heart that got them into the final four. It will be a very interesting game. 

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