Congratulations to Austria and Switzerland on winning this year's "As Hosts, Our Teams Have Succeeded In Not Completely Embarrassing Ourselves, Our Nations, and the Game, But Get Real, This Was About Our Infrastructure and Our Organizations More Than Anything" Cup. (It's a cumbersome name, but "Alan I. Rothenberg Trophy" was taken.)
Tough choice in which game to prioritize, but fortunately Croatia-Poland turned out to be a lemon. Even Switzerland won when the other team played don't-get-injured-ball, and Poland actually had something to theoretically play for. I'm assuming the howling and wailing from bigger nations is drowning out some of the criticism, because I can't imagine Poland fans aren't completely infuriated at their team's performance.
I thought it was very, very polite of everyone to talk an awful lot about 1978 and not at all about 1982, which was one of the low points in the history of the sport. There are probably elderly Algerians who were tortured during the Civil War who would still cheer for France over Germany or Austria. And that wasn't even the most painful memory in the Austria-Germany fixture history - Simon Kuper's excellent article on Matthias Sindelar tells that story better, but let's just say that "Germany knocked Austria out of the 1938 World Cup" is an awkward understatement.
As far as the game? Well, I'd be interested to hear Paul Tamberino and Brian Hall talk about it, or John Carver - but from what we saw, Andy Gray was right. That double-sending off was great and hilarious and all, but it did kill the flow of the game, such as it was - and it was impossible to tell what the heck they did that was so wrong. Maybe Loew and Hickersberger were trading "yo mama" barbs, or the German equivalent. Maybe Loew called Hickersberger's mother a terrorist whore. We may never know.
Other than that - wow. Germany's fans are probably at least as annoyed as, say, Mexico's.
Thou Shalt Not Use FIFA Rankings For Any Argument is a commandment I hold very dear, but on paper, Germany winning by only one goal is very close to if the US only beats Barbados by one goal next Sunday. Except the US could lose by seven and still make it, while Germany had to had to HAD TO win yesterday. (Well, except they didn't, because Poland died and went to hell, but they didn't know that at the time.)
I think Portugal has to feel pretty good about their chances, since Frings is almost certainly out, and Podolski is iffy. And Mario Gomez - okay, he's only 22, and you shouldn't judge an entire career by one play - oh, who am I kidding, Gomez stinks. This has been one of the most bizarre tournaments I've ever seen, and I've been wrong at least 75% of the time on my picks so far, but I think Germany crossed the line between "slow start" and "not that good to begin with."