What are the expectations for the team?
The manager and his players say they aim to win the tournament. Many fans hope for the semis, professional observers expect the quarter-finals. Anything less is historically impossible, of course.
Is the coach popular?
Joachim Löw is the thinking man’s manager, but football is rarely the thinking man’s game. Put differently, Löw can’t hold a candle to his predecessors Rudi Völler and Jürgen Klinsmann.
Are there any players with unusual hobbies or business interests?
When Bremen keeper Tim Wiese was 21, he bought a helicopter for €1,000. Not a real one, mind you, but a radio-controlled model aircraft. It took him literally only minutes to crash the thing. Fortunately, Wiese then tore his cruciate ligament and had enough time to learn properly how to keep such gadgets airborne. “He’s now a really good pilot,” says Jörg Ohle, who organises model-flying competitions.
Is the team likely to have any unusual goal celebrations?
After a good result, the team does the humba with their support. This involves the squad sitting down in front of the fans with one player, often a puckish Lukas Podolski, leading a gimme-an-H, gimme-a-U chant. Once humba is spelled out, the players get up and jump around. (Before you ask, no, it doesn’t mean anything and it goes back to a 1964 Mainz carnival song.)
Are there any personal rivalries in the squad?
Podolski gave Michael Ballack a clip round the ear during a game in Cardiff last April. It was nothing personal, of course. Still, an unnamed citizen filed a charge for criminal assault against Podolski.
Are any players involved in politics?
Last September, defender Philipp Lahm urged people to vote in the general election and not stay at home. The impact of his words was somewhat stronger two months later, though, when he spoke out about Bayern’s transfer policy.
Have the team recorded a song for the World Cup?
The national team cut a song for the 1994 World Cup with, er, the Village People. The side has steered clear of microphones ever since. For many years, I used to applaud this abstinence on humanitarian grounds, but not any more. Putting out godawful tournament songs seems to be a national hobby these days and I have become convinced we can only stem the tide by bringing back the custom of having the team record an official ditty. With David Hasselhoff, I hope.
What will the media coverage be like?
We expect to overdose on experts. No fewer than four German broadcasters cover the tournament and all have their teams of pundits. In an unusual career move, the ever-popular and charming Mehmet Scholl even stepped down as coach of Bayern’s reserve team to concentrate on his punditry job for one of the two public service stations. The other boasts Oliver Kahn. He will analyse the games together with a regular fan, the winner of a competition. Or maybe the loser, one can’t be sure. Uli Hesse