To those who follow international football tournaments, it is well known that England fans never miss a chance to fire a barb at Germany. This week, though, following the blunder by England goalkeeper Robert Green that robbed his team of victory over the United States in Saturday's 1-1 draw, it has become obvious that the opposite is true as well. The schadenfreude is palpable.
Green fumbled a weak, low shot from US midfielder Clint Dempsey which bounced off his hands and trickled around him into the goal, as if in slow motion. His efforts to crawl after it proved fruitless.
Mass circulation Bild seized on Green's gaffe to fire the opening salvo in what could escalate into the usual tabloid war between England and Germany that fans have become used to.
The newspaper helpfully published five tips for England to solve its "eternal goalie problem." They include putting Prince Charles in goal with gloves attached to his "giant ears" that would stop any ball, giving UK citizenship to former German goalkeeper Jens Lehmann, replacing Green with Harry Potter and painting the image of a female breast on the football, pointing out that "English men never miss their grasp at that sight."
The 1966 Curse
Bild also pointed out that a German curse lay on England teams following the controversial goal that put England 3-2 ahead in the 1966 World Cup final against West Germany. Germans insist it was not actually a goal. England went on to win the game 4-2, its last win in an international football tournament.
With satisfied smirks on their faces, German TV commentators and football pundits have declared that Green is symptomatic of England's failure to find good goalkeepers over the years.
"He's kept up the tradition. English goalkeepers are capable of anything," said Günter Netzer, a former Germany player who analyzes matches for the ARD public television network.
Green's error has already made it into the annals of the worst goalkeeping blunders of all time. But that list also includes Germany's very own Oliver Kahn, who fumbled an easy save in the 2002 World Cup final against Brazil.
Green's treatment in the German press was lenient compared with the shredding he got back in England where two tabloids came up with the same headline on Sunday: "The Hand of Clod" -- a reference to the famous 1986 goal scored against England by Diego Maradona, known as the "Hand of God" goal.
But the schadenfreude might seem especially galling to England fans following Germany's impressive performance in its opening match on Sunday with a 4-0 drubbing of Australia, a side not so very different in quality from the US.
Following traumatic defeats against Germany in penalty shootouts in the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup and 1996 European Championship, England might yet get its chance to redress the balance a bit -- if it comes second in Group C and Germany wins in Group D, they could meet as soon as the next round, on June 27. It is a prospect Green -- or his replacement -- must be relishing.