Stewart Wood in The Guardian:
Something strange is stirring in Britain this weekend. It's the sound of Brits being nice about Germany. In tonight's World Cup final in Rio, Germany face Argentina at the end of the most memorable tournament in my lifetime. And it seems pretty clear that, for many of us, Germany is the team we will be cheering. A cynic might say this is just because dislike for Argentina exceeds that for Germany. But that's not what is going on. Germany's football in Brazil (and especially against Brazil) has been exceptional. Wanting Germany to win is based on wanting the best team in the tournament to win.
Dip into the weekend papers, the blogosphere & the musings of the twitterati, and you'll see multiple variants on a similar sentiment: “I can't quite believe it, and I never thought this would happen, but I find myself supporting Germany. Fancy that!”
Usually our praise for German football is similar to our praise for Germans in other spheres of life where they lead the world. We cloak it in begrudging virtues: “efficient”, “clinical”, “ruthless”. Germans are applauded in the language we use to describe well-functioning inanimate objects, such as Mercedes cars, or Miele dishwashers. And characteristics of good cars and dishwashers are, by implication, characteristics of people that you admire in a slightly resentful way.
So we are impressed with Germany, but we don't have any particular affection for it or its people. We have respect for Germany, but we don't want to spend much time there. We applaud Germans' economic success, but we resent their dominance of the European Union. We make lots of jokes at their expense, but we say they have no sense of humour.