Watching Argentina beat Mexico and then Italy beat Australia, I couldn't help reflecting on the teams that I hate. While on the good side there will probably always be Holland, Brazil and England (no matter how boringly bad they play), there are other teams I managed to develop severe antagonism towards during the years.
Italy reigns supreme in this dubious company. It's not that the Italian people have done too much wrong to me (even if my visit to Italy gave me the impression that Italy is populated by useless con artists), but mostly to do with the way their team plays. They always have excellent footballers on their side, yet they will always play a bore-you-to-death defensive game, going for that one-nil. They're like cats: they're so good at it, they only bother making an effort for 5 minutes, and put you to sleep the rest of the time. And why do they have to rely on theatrics so much, and why were they fascists during the last world war?
Next on the list is Argentina. I started hating them when they invaded the Falkland Islands. Then Maradonna came along to beat my Peter Shilton with the hand, and that was it. Every world cup since I just wait for the game where Argentina would fuck off.
Last time around was probably the best in this regard: They were off on the group stage, and they were even beaten by England (albeit in not the most convincing of ways).
This time around, though, things are different. I got more sense in my head and I realize that my old childhood prejudices are nothing more than childhood prejudices. No one on the Argentinean team invaded the Falklands, and I'm sure they're quite happy to get rid of that Chunta that ruled them. And let's face it: they play some mean attractive football; their game against Mexico was so far the best in the tournament by far.
Last on the list is Germany. I don't think there should be much doubt as to why it stars on this list, but history aside there is also way Germany has been known to play - boringly.
Now I admit that I have a generic problem with Germany. I am fully aware of the fact none of the players in the team had anything to do with what happened some 70 years ago, yet when I walked the streets of Germany I couldn't help asking questions whenever I saw an old person in the street: now, what did HE do back then?
As is always the case with ignorance, once you actually get to know the people you see them for what they are: people, just like you and me. I actually had the pleasure of working with a German whose father was an SS officer; working with Israelis, he always felt like he had something to prove, but we all thought that he was the best of persons.
Anyway, as with Argentina, my feelings towards the German team are now changing. Again, I do not let old prejudice dictate my preferences anymore, and with Klinsman at the helm Germany is actually one of the more attractive sides around. I tip them to take the cup (I tipped that months ago), simply because France showed the value of home support.
And thus by this World Cup I get to follow teams that play a decent game, not the Allies.
Now, can someone mop Italy aside?