SPIEGEL's World Cup Blog Germany is Third!
World Cup hosts Germany might not have made it into Sunday's final, but that's okay. The country is reveling in its victory over Portugal for third place anyway. Plus, goalkeeper Oliver Kahn bids adieu to the German national team. It's been great, Tschüß!
Germans are content to be the "World Champions of Hearts" after their team's third-place finish.
Those half ironic and half sincere words rang out into the Berlin night on Saturday following a 3-1 victory over Portugal. The Germans apparently have dealt extremely well with the disappointment of not making it into the World Cup final. As I watched the semi-final losers' match in Stuttgart from the comfort of my living room, it seemed as if the rest of Berlin was right on the couch there with me.
With the windows open, I could hear just how important this consolation match was to everyone here. During the scoreless first half, the tension was palpable as Germany couldn't score and Portugal threatened to on several occasions. But as German coach Jürgen Klinsmann's side came back from the break, cries of frustration became cries of joy after Bastian Schweinsteiger score his first goal. Just as the crowd in the stadium went nuts, my neighbors started to dance in the streets and more than few even lit fireworks.
Things only continued in that vein as the World Cup hosts went on to win the match and have an all-out lovefest afterwards. Everybody was just plain happy. Klinsmann had his trademark grin permanently affixed as he was congratulated from all sides for taking the team as far as he did. It didn't matter that they failed to win the tournament. The Germans have clearly decided to have a great party even if France or Italy ends up becoming world champions.
Nothing sums up the mood of the night better than how Germany's goalkeeper Oliver Kahn described the match. "It was one of the greatest when not the most emotional moment that I can remember," said Kahn, who was allowed to finish his international career on Saturday after being benched for the World Cup in favor of Jens Lehmann. "There could hardly be a more beautiful final international match."
Oliver Kahn in Stuttgart.
Of course, a few television commentators couldn't stop themselves from asking what the country's reaction would have been had Germany actually won the World Cup. Berlin's largest boulevard through the city's Tiergarten park undoubtedly would have been transformed into the planet's biggest party much like Paris' Champs-Élysées was after France won in 1998. The rest of Germany would have gone bonkers too.
Becoming world champs would have been big. It would have been bold. But would it have been as touching as what happened after winning third? Not a chance.
-- Marc Young, 2:00 p.m. CET
Kahn Bids Farewell
Following his team's victory for third place in the World Cup against Portugal on Saturday night, Germany's Oliver Kahn announced he would retire from the national team. Kahn, a soccer star big enough in Germany to have a billboard dedicated to him that arches over the motorway to the Munich international airport, suffered the ultimate humiliation. After years as one of the country's top goalkeepers and stars, Germany coach Jürgen Klinsmann instead passed him over in favor of Jens Lehmann of London Arsenal as his choice to be the main goalkeeper during the World Cup.
Though he must of been deeply hurt inside, Kahn served as the ultimate good sport -- not only cheering his team and supporting Lehmann from the sidelines, but also appearing on TV and at press conferences to root for the home team. Between plays, TV cameras constantly flashed over to Kahn on the bench. In the end, he was one of Germany's biggest World Cup stars. With the serious competition over after Germany's devastating loss on Tuesday night, coach Klinsmann awarded Kahn for his good sportmanship by putting him back into the goal for the battle for third place. At the end of a fine match, Kahn also said it would be his last for the national team.
"This was my last international," he announced after his team's 3-1 victory against Portugal. "It was a lovely time, but you also have to know when your time is up," he told German public broadcaster ZDF after his 86th game for the German national team. "This (game) was one of the biggest, if not the most emotional moments, that I can remember. You couldn't have asked for a better last international," he said.
Commenting on Kahn's departure, Klinsmann said: "That was a decision that he could only have made for himself. I have the utmost respect for Oliver. It was a painful pill for him to swallow when we chose Jens Lehmann as our No. 1 goalkeeper. But he earned the right to play again in the game for slot three. And he did so superbly."
The experience of being demoted, he said, "probably did more for me than playing would have." Flashing back on his career, he added: "I have achieved almost everything, and this is exactly the right point in time to stop. During the next two years, I want to concentrate fully on Bayern München," he said, thanking his fans. "This World Cup tops everything -- it's been completely insane."
During the World Cup, Kahn drew great admiration for good sportsmanship from the bench. Before the penalty shooting began in the semi-final match between Germany and Argentina, Kahn hugged rival Lehmann to motivate him during the tense final stage of the game.
"It's unbelievable how football can affect people. Sometimes you can't even express it with words. I will never forget that," the Munich player said Saturday.
Kahn's first game for the national team was in Berne in June 1995 in a Switzerland-Germany match-up that his team won 2-1. In 2002, he was part of the German team that came in second place at the World Cup in Japan and South Korea. For his successful goalkeeping there, he was named the tournament's best player.
-- Daryl Lindsey, 4 p.m. CET