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Culture

Reticent Germans Face Possible Curse of the Faroes

Everyone expected the Germans to beat Scotland on Saturday but the resulting draw in the European Championship qualifiers adds an ominous feeling to their next match against the tiny Faroe Islands.

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Walk the walk but don't talk the talk: Rudi Völler (left) and Michael Ballack in training.

There are a number of soccer clichés that could be hauled out, dusted down and served to German team chief Rudi Völler on the eve of his country's crucial European Championship qualifier against the North Sea minnows of the Faroe Islands. After Germany's lacklustre 1:1 draw with compatriot Berti Vogt's Scotland on Saturday, Völler may be tempted to cushion a possible shocking blow by reminding the world that "there are no easy games at this level."

And after the match, if the unlikely, although not impossible, happens and Germany is defeated on the wind-swept archipelago, then the former World Cup player-turned coach may simply face the music with the well-worn statement of the embarrassed manager: "It's a funny old game." But at the moment, he's saying very little apart from stating the obvious: "Two points are missing and we absolutely must beat the Faroe Islands."

History and form suggests that Völler should be a man producing quotable nuggets of confidence for the assembled press ahead of Wednesday's clash. Germany has won the European Championships a total of three times and has been runner-up twice whereas the Faroe Islands have failed to qualify since the championships began in 1960. But instead of playing up to the role of favorites, the German camp is towing the regular party line of near silence.

Germans giving nothing away

As much as the Germans like to celebrate their regular successes on the international soccer scene, they are a reticent bunch when the outcome of the competition has yet to be decided. In typical fashion, the Germans refused to build themselves up before the Scotland game on Saturday, despite being the stronger team on paper, and are typically tight-lipped about their chances against the Faroes. It seems the safest option. The refusal to blow their own trumpet has every angle covered - win, lose or draw.

Baskische Idylle

Klose looks forward to facing the Faroe Islands.

So far, no one can be pinned down on the way they expect the game to go. Midfielder Michael Ballack refused to comment on the possible result at a recent press conference and instead directed some diplomatic yet thinly- veiled criticism to stir his team mates ahead of the clash by saying, "Some of the players must realize what it means to play for Germany and act accordingly."

Meanwhile striker Miroslav Klose took the easy way out and played dumb when quizzed on Germany's opponents: "All I know is there's plenty of sheep with mountains in the background."

Proceed with caution?

Although expectation within the sport was high of a crushing German victory over McBerti and his team of brave Scots; as usual none of it seemed to emanate from the German players themselves. And while there were no words to come back to haunt them after finishing the match with a single point, the apparent caution in their media approach was extended to their display on the pitch. The Germans seemed to balk at the tenacity of Scotland and at times looked overawed by the support from the crowd inside the cauldron of noise that was Hampden Park.

Chances are, however, that the Germans will overcome the part-timers of the Faroes on Wednesday to top Group Five and keep their chances of automatic qualification for the European Championships in Portugal next summer well and truly alive. But then again, as the Germans seem to acknowledge more than most, nothing can be taken for granted.

That elusive emphatic win

Rudi Völler und Co-Trainer Michael Skibbe

Tight-lipped: Völler and Skibbe

The last time the two teams met was in Hanover last October. The Germans were once again expected to put the Faroes to the sword but stuttered in front of their own supporters and made a 2:1 victory look like a lucky escape. The effect of failing to hit double figures on the back of a successful World Cup campaign in Japan/South Korea was evident in coach Völler's stunned reaction to the narrow victory: "It’s forced us to return back to the basics of getting through a game. I don’t want to glorify anything. It was obvious from the beginning, that we couldn’t win more than three points." Again, well said Rudi...

Völler and his boys may be contemplating another fierce encounter on Wednesday, for what the Faroes lack in technical skill, they more than make up for in enthusiasm and passion for the game. Despite being stuck at the bottom of Group Five with one point after a 2:1 defeat by Iceland on Saturday, the Islanders are likely to rise to the challenge posed by the three time World and European champions.

Islands of soccer passion

Although neither their league nor their national team plays a big role on the international soccer stage, nearly one in every eight Islanders is a member of a soccer club – a statistic larger soccer nations can only dream of. As a result, every game against a major soccer force is a championship final and the players take to the field as if the World Cup itself was the prize to be won at the end of it.

Maybe a bit more fire and commitment like that wouldn't go amiss for the stoical Germans come Wednesday night.

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