As I mentioned in a previous column, there are "serious Germans" who are certain that their team's success in the World Cup will spill over to the governing coalition. The better the Mannschaft does, the better for Angela Merkel. Of course it's not just sports that could save the chancellor's floundering government but also economic indicators that are beginning to point upward.
Nevertheless, Merkel must have been aware of the chance she was taking when she flew to South Africa to watch Team Deutschland take on Argentina. Had her team lost, shots of Merkel looking glum would surely have made it onto the cover of Bild and Stern with quips like, "Can't she do anything right?" or "Merkel loses again" or "The Merkel Curse." (In fact, the whole curse business has been lopped onto Mick Jagger.)
Luckily for Frau Merkel, the Germans obliterated Argentina, 4-0, far better than her own prediction of 2-1. And with every goal, the cameras would flash to an increasingly happy chancellor, shaking hands, clapping, raising her arm (no, not in that way), and even kissing South African president Jacob Zuma.
But as Quentin Peel notes in the Financial Times, we shouldn't get too carried away:
A feeling of insecurity is still the most significant factor affecting the poor government polling figures. Worries about Greece and the eurozone debt crisis are compounded by the feeling that Ms Merkel is not in control of her centre-right government, which has been riven by public disagreements since it came to power last October.
Still, if the Germans defeat Spain in tomorrow's semifinal match, a boost in confidence, unity, and national pride will be just what the chancellor needs. (And if, as a result, Germany takes on the Netherlands in the World Cup final, that pride will be something fierce—on both sides of the border. Remember those nifty helmets the Dutch came up with in 2006 to get on Germany's nerves?)