Thursday, March 25, 2010

German Mind Games Begin

I love this. And what I love about this is not the stroking of Wayne Rooney.

It's the biggest name in German soccer beginning a campaign to get inside the heads of Team Three Lions.

This is the story: Franz "Der Kaiser" Beckenbauer talking up Wayne Rooney, and how the England striker is so hot, playing so well, has become so unstoppable, that not only does Beckenbauer's Bayern Munich have little chance against Manchester United in the Champions League quarterfinals ... he is moved to say that, ach!, England looks like a favorite to win the whole thing.

What is really going on here? Well, this: These are not just statements made without foresight.

--Beckenbauer is playing possum, as we say in the States. (A possum being a marsupial than can play dead, thereby leaving predators, as opposed to carrion eaters, to leave it alone.). If you went to the linked story, Beckenbauer makes no mention of Germany as a potential World Cup favorite at South Africa 2010, as if the national team that he led to one championship as a player and another as a coach ... has utterly collapsed. And he says that even though the Germans somehow show up in the semifinals just about every four years even when they are dismissed as being down.

--Beckenbauer is playing to the well-known and self-destructive tendency of England teams, fans and executives to overrate their side in the months before the World Cup, setting goals for it that are unrealistic or sure to amp up the pressure on the players. To read the English press for the past five decades is to believe that England has won scads of World Cups.

England has won one. At home. In 1966. But the country already is in a lather about the 2010 side, and Beckenbauer just lobbed another big fat warm fuzzy at a team and a nation, that already thinks "this is going to be easy."

--Some of this is about Bayern Munich; Beckenbauer is the honorary president of the club, which plays Rooney's club, ManU, shortly.

But it also is about the World Cup. Something else Beckenbauer didn't mention was how England may well face Germany at Africa 2010. If both teams do what they are expected to do (England) or normally do (Germany), they will meet in the semifinals. With England having the monstrous advantage of Wayne Rooney.

I'm not usually one big on subtexts. Generally, like most sports guys, a compliment is a compliment.

But there are times when a guy says one thing and means another. When he is trying to get inside the heads of a team or a specific player. And I am convinced Der Kaiser was working that angle when he all but conceded victory to Wayne Rooney's teams.
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