The passion and volume so often present at Bundesliga matches hasn’t always been evident in international games. But on Saturday in Bordeaux, the German fans turned up the noise. And it worked.
When DFB Preisdent Reinhard Grindel took the microphone on top of Germany’s fan club bus in Bordeaux, the German fans watching on hesitated. Was this to be an ill-timed speech when all anyone really wanted to talk about was Germany’s approaching quarterfinal against Italy?
“We have 2006 in mind. We have 2012 in mind. Today, Italy is due [a defeat],” said Grindel, surprising the fans, who reacted with roars of delight. Well, it turns out that Grindel was right but not even he could have imagined it would turn out the way it did.
From start to finish, the game was remarkable and the crowd mirrored every twist and turn.
Often short on audible support, Germany’s fans were at their best on Saturday . Over the years, the special nature of being a Bundesliga supporter hasn’t transferred to the national side. The demanding, critical, voices often present at national team games hadn’t disappeared, but they were largely drowned out by the cheers.
“Super Deutschland” and “Die Nummer eins der Welt sind wir” (We are number one in the world) were two of the most popular. The frustration at Italy’s slow approach to the game also yielded a response, but it was far from imaginative or pleasant.
The crowd were playing an important role. By the hour mark, the cards started to appear and Italy’s players briefly looked frustrated. On went Germany’s songs. The noise dipped for a moment, but it was only for effect. It came roaring back, and so did Löw’s boys after Germany’s forgotten striker Mario Gomez did superbly to set up a man so often Germany’s scapegoat.
But that man Mesut Özil was not to be Germany’s hero. Nor was Jerome Boateng, whose error had the sea of blue behind Neuer’s goal bouncing again. The Italian fans had been quieter on the night. Now though, they sensed the tide was turning and they reacted accordingly.
The longer it went on, the more epic the encounter grew, and the crowd added a fitting soundtrack.
Italy flashed an effort past the post. Germany’s fans could only offer whistles. The momentum was swinging back and forth, on the pitch and around the stadium. Italy’s bench had stood up. Germany’s sat, hands nervously on faces.
Suddenly, everyone was nervous. Fans, players, likely Grindel too. Hummels was booked and out of the semifinal. Germany had to get there first.
Extra-time, of course. Half chances. The chants became more of a drone
Then penalties, where the Germans always win. But that wasn’t the feeling in the stands. These were the two best teams in the tournament. This couldn’t be any ordinary shoot out.
And so it proved. As many chances were spurned as mistakes had been made during the 120 minutes of play. The stadium knew Müller would miss, but not Schweinsteiger, not with the win at his mercy.
How long could it go on for? Sudden death. Impressively, Joshua Kimmich held his nerve but with Italy always taking first, Germany were always under pressure. Step forward, Jonas Hector. A man to my right had shouted earlier, “You’re playing for Germany, not your carnival club now.” Ironic then that he would spark carnival-like celebrations with the winning spot kick.
Grindel was right, Italy were due a defeat but it took an almighty effort, from everyone.