The place to go for happy hour tonight is Berlin. There's going to be quite a party as the Germans celebrate beating Argentina—the favorites to win the World Cup—to progress to the semis. I'll leave the post-match analysis to the experts, but why on earth did the Argentine coach take out his most dangerous player, Riquelme?
But the more FP point I want to make is that Angela Merkel is as much a winner as the German team. Not only is Merkel getting great publicity with every Germany game (the TV cuts to her even more than it does to Posh Spice aka Mrs Beckham during England games), but she is also using the tournament to push through a series of controversial measures. The Times of London had a great article a few days ago about all the bills that Merkel is sneaking through while the public is captivated by the heroics of Ballack, Lehman et al.
These measures aren't small beer. The other day, she got parliament to endorse a 3 percent increase in sales tax. My friend Andrew Curry, who wrote the World Cup brothels piece for us and lives in Germany, tells me that this is the biggest tax increase since 1949. But there was hardly a whimper of public protest as everyone was too busy watching the football.
The other great thing for Merkel is the feel-good factor that the footy is producing. Andrew was telling me that it is quite incredible to watch Germans—for so long understandably afraid of their own national symbols—discovering the simple joys of patriotism once more. A more self-confident Germany will be a country more open to change. Who knows, the World Cup might just give Merkel the reforming mandate that the 2005 election didn’t.