The optimal World Cup winner: Germany?

Martin van Tuijl, Columnist Faces

On June 12, the FIFA World Cup Finals will start in Brazil. Prior to every so-called ‘great tournament’, many economists wonder which country would be the optimal winner from a macro-economic perspective. Their line of reasoning is quite simple. If the national team of a country is victorious in the World Cup, consumer confidence goes up, consumption rises and, therefore, aggregate demand increases. Thus, according to these economists, we ought to ask ourselves which country is most in need of an impetus to macro-economic demand.

A decade ago, many experts thought that Brazil, China, India, and Russia would be the engines of growth for the world economy in the not-too-distant future. These countries are frequently indicated as the BRIC-countries. First, Brazil is the home country. Therefore, the Brazilians will get an economic impetus anyway. In the past, organizing ‘countries’ have won six out of nineteen World Cups: Uruguay in 1930, Italy in 1934, England in 1966, West-Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, and France in 1998. Moreover, the Seleçao have won the Confederations Cup in 2013.  Thus, the Brazilian team is marvellous, but will the pressure not become too much for the players? In 1950, Brazil were hosting the tournament for the first time, only to lose the trophy to Uruguay, eleven minutes from the final whistle in the decisive match of the final stage.

Second, China and India do not participate. A dozen years ago, China did qualify for the World Cup in Japan and South-Korea. However, the Chinese team was simply not good enough to survive the group stage. Apart from corruption, Chinese soccer then seemed to have two problems. First, the attitude of the players was too friendly, they were somewhat naive. In general, this attitude is appreciated in life, except for sports at the top level. Second, forwards seemed to hesitate to shoot at goal. Is there a Hofstede-like explanation for this phenomenon? The most prominent philosopher in the Netherlands nowadays, according to all-round pundit Maarten van Rossem is Johannes H. Cruijff (1947). The latter once stated that it is impossible to score a goal if one does not even shoot at goal. India were never present at the final tournament of the FIFA World Cup Finals. In the 2006 FIFA World Cup Finals, the French squad included one player with Indian roots: Vikash Dhorasoo (see Hindustan Times, February 19, 2011). The latter player seems to be the complete contribution of India since the first tournament in 1930.

Third, it does not seem to be wise to consider Russia at the moment, given the current geopolitical situation. In conclusion, Brazil is the only BRIC-country to be considered. Hosting the tournament already stimulates their economy. Therefore, I would propose to start from another criterion.

Now, two possible criteria are available. First, one could simply opt for the ‘nationality’ criterion. I do have a Dutch passport so ‘Oranje’ would be the optimal winner. Alas, this option is not very realistic. The Dutch squad only includes two world-class players, being Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben. That is simply not enough. Kevin Strootman is seriously injured, while Wesley Sneijder and Rafael van der Vaart have been too much occupied by WAGs (wives and girlfriends), a not very female-friendly term from the typical soccer idiom. Sneijder plays in the Turkish League, which is good but far from excellent. Van der Vaart is fighting a relegation battle with Hamburger SV, the sole founder of the 1. Bundesliga (1963/1964) to be present during more than half a century.

The Bundesliga takes us to the second criterion: ‘merit’. Germany has at least two merits. First, the country guided the rest of the Eurozone through a potentially dangerous crisis. There is no reason to underestimate the contribution of, for example, Mr Dijsselbloem. However, it has become quite clear that Germany are the undisputed leaders when Europe has to solve problems as big as the ‘Eurocrisis’. Obviously, the country that has to pay the lion’s share of the bill has a large say. In my opinion, Germany deserves a further increase in nationwide self-confidence, just for this achievement.

The second merit is the beautiful style of their national team. Fifteen years ago, the German national team was in shambles. Next, Rudi Völler restored national pride by reaching the final of the FIFA World Cup in 2002. Yet, the style of the Germans was very efficient, with goalkeeper (!) Oliver Kahn being their best player. At Euro 2004, Germany failed dramatically. After that, Jürgen Klinsmann took over, adding beauty to the physical and tactical skills of ‘Die Mannschaft’. Two years later, Joachim Löw succeeded his former boss and continued his work. Since 2006, Germany has always reached the semi-finals, but it has never won a major prize. Now, the time seems to be ripe.