Although it had been literally decades since the Austrian national team had beaten the Germans, it was nevertheless a bit of a stressful match last night, given Germany's dreadful performance last week against Croatia, coupled with the Austrians' last minute draw with Poland (due to a pretty ridiculous penalty call--just one of many examples of the lackluster performance of the referees in this year's Euro2008 Championship--"EM" in German, for "Euromeisterschaft"). It was do-or-die for both teams, as an outright win was required for either of them to advance to the quarterfinal.
The game opened slowly, though the Germans did seem to be on better form than they were during Thursday's loss to Croatia. Germany's goalie, Jens Lehmann, had been very off in that game, and though he had his rough moments last night, he came through when we needed him. The Austrian goalie, Jürgen Macho, moreover, was in top shape. Thus, while the Germans managed to pretty much stiffle the Austrian attack in the first half, they themselves didn't do much better.
Indeed, the highlight of the first half occurred, in fact, off the field. Toward the end of the period, the Austrian coach, Josef Hickersberger, came over to the German side of the pitch and joined the German coach, Joachim Löw, in complaining when the fourth official tried to reign in both coaches' penchant for wandering the sidelines. Eventually, the official was prompted to eject them both. Thus, while play continued on the pitch, the cameras followed the sullen Löw's march off into the VIP box to sit next to his midfielder, Bastian Schweinsteiger, who was out for the game because of a last-minute red card in the Croatia match (in my opinion, another example of the ref's bad form in this tournament). The cameras left him marching up the stairs off the pitch and returned to the action on the field, but just a few seconds later, they returned to Löw--to find him in animated conference with a particular VIP in the front row, namely, Angela Merkel, Germany's chancellor (who was wearing a hideous orange-brown suit jacket that looked like it had been recycled from some 1970's upholstrey).
Thus, the first half ended with the match scoreless. Soon after the second half started, however, Germany finally put it together when team captain Michael Ballack put a textbook zinger into the upper right corner of the Austrian net to put the Germans ahead. (Note: Chancellor Merkel was even stiff and uptight when celebrating her national team's goal--she stood and politely clapped, but had quite the off-put expression on her face when one of her ministers kissed her on both cheeks in celebration.) Despite a few tense moments here and there in the second half (the ball spent entirely way too much time in the Austrians' possession and on the German side of the field), the Germans held out to win the match. Truth be told, however, the most amusing parts of the second half were the repeated cutaways to Löw, who seemed to resemble nothing more or less than a petulant adolescent (he seemed to slouch lower and lower in his seat with every camera cutaway).
One final note: I joined one of the other Americans (Lindsey) to watch the match at an "Evangelische Gemeinde" (protestant church) that was showing it on a big LCD projector in their parish hall (I had watched the match against Croatia there on Thursday with my friend Timon, who had heard about it from one of his friends who is a member of the parish). At the door to room, I noticed a small poster hanging on the wall with a quote from E.B. Jung with which I'd like to close this post (my translation):
God loves fans. Especially His. Therefore, this fan package includes season tickets for the best season of all. Only one questions remains: how long does ninety minutes of eternity last?