The Cup Running Over

June 2, 2010 11:39 AM

Does Germany's Eurovision Victory Tell Us Anything About the World Cup? Probably

Occasionally, victories in international competitions come all at once. One need only look back to 2008 to see Spain's Euro triumph coincide with Spanish domination of tennis and cycling the same year, not to mention Penelope Cruz's Oscar.

Although not quite the same thing, Germany - shockingly - won the annual Eurovision Song Competition on Saturday, courtesy of Hamburg's 19-year-old Lena Meyer-Landrut. For those unfamiliar with the competition, you're missing out: essentially an infinitely more absurd American Idol that involves all of Europe, the competition is an all-night affair where countries perform musical routines and then a winner is decided by phone-in vote (voters are not allowed to vote for their own country).

How big is it on the continent? Absolutely huge.

For Germany to win this glorified popularity contest is even huger. Many have written how the 2006 World Cup in Germany renewed a sense of national pride that had - for obvious reasons - been absent since the days of Nazi Germany "The German national team helped the country to like itself again," wrote a film director who made a documentary about that Cup.

Lena wins Eurovision for Germany (courtesy of Eurovision TV).

What this Eurovision victory shows is that this new Germany is not just popular with Germans, but surprisingly with the rest of Europe as well.

What's more, Germany is miles ahead of its neighbors. In the past, winners have tended to come from the peripheries of the continent - Estonia, Latvia, Ukraine, Norway, and Turkey have all won in recent years. In fact, the last continental Western European country to win it was Italy two decades ago - making Germany's victory all the more unbelievable. This could well be the most popular Germany has been in a long while, if ever.

Could the Eurovision victory be a sign of things to come in South Africa? Quite possibly. While winning Eurovision is hardly the equivalent of Spain's blanket athletic dominance in 2008, this German national team prides itself on representing a new, more friendly and inclusive Germany. The squad is packed with immigrants and insists on joyful, attacking football, as opposed to the gritty, machine-like efficiency the team was once known for and exemplified a nation that a pundit once deemed the Darth Vader of opponents.

If the last World Cup was anything to go on, this team is buoyed by massive shows of support, even from non-Germans. Saturday's public show of popularity for this new Germany will, at the very least, be a huge morale boost for an injury-ravaged team, and could well drive them on to greater things. If, of course, there is anything greater than Eurovision.

Steven and Harrison Stark are the co-authors of World Cup 2010: The Indispensable Guide to Soccer and Geopolitics, recently published by Blue River Press. They are analyzing the World Cup for Real Clear Sports.

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