Having failed to get Baz to approve my travel expenses, I am forced to watch the opening match on television. The BBC’s pre-match build-up includes expert analysis from Boris Becker and an interview with Jurgen Klinsmann in which he claims that living in California gives him an advantage in his role as manager of Germany. Martin O’Neill responds with a bizarre comment about the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The match itself is preceded by a short silence in memory of the FIFA Family, whatever that may be.
The under-par hosts have been gifted with an easy group, on paper, beginning with the team ranked 26th in the world, and after just 6 minutes Lahm puts Germany ahead with a rocket into the top corner. Mark Lawrenson suggests we might have already seen the best goal in the entire tournament.
Costa Rica look weak in attack and allow their opposition too much space, but after 12 minutes former Derby County hero Paolo Wanchope finds himself on the right end of a marginal (but correct) offside decision. He is visibly surprised to have so much space but holds his nerve to score. Five minutes later Klose responds and my initial prediction of 2-1 looks good, as long as both teams suddenly wilt in the Munich sun.
The Germans get cocky and start shooting from well outside the box. The tactic fails to bear fruit, though they remain dominant in terms of possession and territory. Lawrenson makes his first lame pun of the tournament (Centeno has no antenna, in case you were wondering).
At half-time Gary Lineker tries one of his own about Lahm pulling the wool over our eyes. As well as the flexible pronunciation it is unclear exactly whose eyes Lahm has pulled wool over, and how. Alan Shearer is the first to note the new, lighter balls (these balls seem to get lighter for every tournament – if the pundits are to be believed we will be playing with a beach ball in 2020). Meanwhile the Yorkshire Evening Post teaches me how to bodypop like Peter Crouch (i.e. embarrassingly badly).
16 minutes into the second half Miroslav Klose puts away a simple rebound off the Costa Rican keeper Jose Porras and the match looks all but over. The Germans decide to take a break and pass the ball around aimlessly with the apparent intention of sitting out the rest of the game. On 73 minutes Wanchope scores again to ruin the plan, though this time he is fortunate not to have the flag raised against him.
Despite the added pressure the Germans hold on with little difficulty, and 3 minutes before full time Torsten Frings seals the victory with a long-range effort eclipsing Lahm’s opener. This time Lawrenson is more cautious in his gushing.
This German team has been called the worst for years, but we said that in 2002 and they still made it to the final. We know that home advantage makes a hell of a difference, and if there’s one thing the Germans are good at it’s playing major tournaments. As ever, you’d be a fool to write them off, and in my book they have always been the favourites.