Fifa World Cup shock: Lothar Matthaus warned us it would end in tears, say German fans in Hong Kong

Fans turn up in droves at ‘Germany House’ in Hong Kong to watch games, but the prediction from former captain and World Cup winner Lothar Matthaus rings true

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 10:35am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 June, 2018, 12:30pm

“Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win.”

The words of former England international forward Gary Lineker, a man who lost to West Germany in the 1990 World Cup semi-finals, had rung true after the Sweden game on match day two, and surely would again over bottom side South Korea.

The prospect for match day three was simple. Win and progress.

Everyone inside the Intercontinental Academy Rooms of the Intercontinental Grand Stanford Hong Kong was aware of what needed to happen, as this was the home of the Germany House.

The Deutsches WM Haus, to give it its full name, was arranged by the Consulate General of the Federal Republic of Germany Hong Kong so fans could watch Die Mannschaft in action in Russia.

“We talked about where to watch the World Cup with fellow Germans and Hong Kong friends,” Julian Kauke, vice-consul for culture and press affairs, said.

“It turned out that apart from a few groups scattered across various bars, there was not ‘the place to be’ for German supporters. So we decided to organise our own public screening. “

They partnered with the hotel and the German chamber, plus sponsors in the form of three of the biggest car brands in the world: Audi, BMW, Mercedes.

Hotel general manager Alex Wassermann, a German from a small town outside Munich, was sanguine about the team’s chances as he found time to talk in between overseeing that 200-plus football fans were having a good time.

But he had inside information.

World Cup winner Lothar Matthaus had been at the hotel a few months back as part of a panel to teach German businesses what they can learn from the sports world, and the former captain had warned against backing this side.

Wassermann told the South China Morning Post that Matthaus was not confident, based on the difference of his experience in 1986 where there was a lack of focus in the squad and the drive that defined the 1990 team from the outset.

This year’s Germany team have reportedly been stricken by division.

That had not put off the fans.

“Even for the match at 2am [against Sweden] the venue was completely full,” Kauke said

The room was full again, as were the hearts of those hoping for a German win.

Bitburger beers and bratwurst were among the German delicacies flying from the booths before kick-off to a hubbub of German, Cantonese and English fans, but then it became all business.

Even the chefs were glued to the screens.

It was fitting that the first officially organised fan party in Hong Kong that the Post made it to was the German one. While it might be beyond cliched to describe the Germans as organised, there is a reason for it and the combination of the consulate and a five-star hotel got the word out.

German shirts must have made up half of the crowd, many of them worn by the local Bayern Munich supporters group who had taken all four of the bierhalle style tables in the middle of the room.

Thomas Muller and Mesut Ozil were by far the most popular players, going by the number of replica shirts bearing their names, but Toni Kroos, Joshua Kimmich and Jonas Hector had their fans.

As did Miroslav Klose and Jurgen Klinsmann – this was a crowd that knew their history..

The minute-by-minute of this game would have been exhausting to read, let alone watching the actual match – and that was as a neutral. The sheer volume of emotion in the air became stifling as the game went on.

The first half came and went in a blur, every chance rolling into one collective willing of the ball to go in.

Half-time offered respite and a chance for sustenance, in an orderly queue of course, but that lasted all of five minutes after the restart as news that Sweden had taken the lead against Mexico filtered through.

Every chance and half chance after that was greeted with even more emotion to the point where even bookings for the opposition were celebrated like goals.

Sweden’s second goal was met with a ripple of applause, as confusion surrounded what might yet happen, but one thing remained certain: Germany needed to score.

The tension was finally broken with a collective laugh from the roomwhen a Korean player was hit by the ball in a delicate area.

But the unease was palpable as we entered added time – despite cheers for the news that there would be six minutes for the holders to save their World Cup.

Then, Kim Young-gwon found the back of the net in the 92nd minute for the Koreans from a corner, and after a lengthy VAR review, the goal was given. Cue celebrations from some viewers wearing France, England, Japan and Australia shirts.

But the second Korean goal four minutes later was met with a stunned silence from the entire room.

Fifa World Cup: defending champions Germany sent packing from Russia 2018 after stunning defeat to South Korea

Soon after, the fans were pouring out of the door before the final whistle had even gone. Suddenly, finding someplace better to be had become as pressing as Germany finding a winning goal had been earlier.

“The turnout completely exceeded our expectations, despite the horrible result,” Kauke said, quickly finding a silver lining.

“Everyone is cheering for Germany from the bottom of their hearts and it is just great to see how football can bring people together, in good as well as in bad times.

Fifa World Cup: South Korean players thought Germany win was enough to go through

“We are sure that Germany will rise again from this defeat and be back in two years for the Euro 2020. We hope to organise a similar event then.”

By then, Germany will surely be back troubling the later stages of the tournament. Football, after all, is a simple game.