In July 1990, a controversial late penalty by Andreas Brehme won the World Cup for Germany and snatched the title from Argentina. As a boy growing up in Buenos Aires, I can still remember vividly Diego Maradona’s inconsolable tears as the selección limped off the pitch of Rome’s Stadio Olimpico.
Those were my tears too. But 24 years later, there is a chance finally to erase that childhood trauma. On Sunday, Argentina faces Germany in a World Cup final once again.
As a fan of la albiceleste I can’t really complain. During my lifetime Argentina have won two World Cups, including beating West Germany in the 1986 final, and produced some of the finest players in recent years, from Maradona to today’s hero, Lionel Messi.
I was a year old, and living relatively close to the River Plate stadium, when Argentina beat Holland in the 1978 World Cup final. When they did it again eight years later in Mexico, I was old enough to realise what it meant and to feel the country’s intoxicated joy as Maradona raised the trophy above his head in the sunny Estadio Azteca. Read more
Once Indonesia has finally got through counting the votes and has separated the two presidential candidates, it will have a new leader. That puts the nation of 250m people in good company. In Asia, in the last 18 months, countries with approaching a total of 3bn inhabitants – including China, India, Japan and South Korea – have changed their leadership. Even the Thais have a new man in charge, though he had to organise a coup to get there.
One country that has not altered its leadership is the Philippines. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino, has been president for four years. By the standards of his perennially disappointing country of nearly 100m people, his time in office has been a roaring success. Growth has stabilized above 6 per cent, inflation is low and debt and budget deficits have been brought under firm control. The economy is even creating jobs – something it has sorely lacked for years – in the booming outsourcing sector. Call centres in the Philippines employ more people than ones in India. Ratings agencies have responded to improving macroeconomic conditions, upgrading sovereign debt to investment grade. Philippine conglomerates have started investing significant sums at home. Read more
As François Hollande’s socialist government has taken a distinct turn to the right under Manuel Valls, his reformist prime minister, many have questioned the role of Arnaud Montebourg, champion of the left, fierce critic of globalisation and scourge of corporate bosses, both French and foreign.
Rumours have circulated in the French media that Mr Montebourg, promoted to economy minister when Mr Valls was appointed at the end of March, might soon quit the government to position himself for a potential presidential tilt in 2017 if Mr Hollande fails to recover from his current rock-bottom ratings. Read more
For those expats bemoaning the cost of a burger in Geneva or rent in Tokyo, it could be worse. They could be living in Luanda.
The tight supply of international standard housing in Luanda has put the Angolan capital top of the list of the most expensive cities in the world, according to a survey by consultants Mercer of the costs of living abroad. It held the same position last year as the oil boom continues to suck in expats. Read more
US-German relations strained over new spying allegations
Germany has summoned the US envoy following allegations that an agent working for Germany’s intelligence agency was spying for the US. Gideon Rachman is joined by James Blitz, former security correspondent, and Jeevan Vasagar, Berlin correspondent, to discuss what this means for already troubled relations between the Obama and Merkel governments, and how the two nations can resolve their differences in order to tackle the numerous shared geopolitical challenges they face.
By Vincent Boland in Dublin
As the man himself sings:
“When the rain’s blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I would offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love.”
Nobody was feeling the love in Dublin on Wednesday after Garth Brooks, the US country singer, cancelled his five live concerts in a dispute with a local residents’ organisation that has left everyone involved embarrassed, sorry, and counting the cost.
Mr Brooks was due to play the five gigs on consecutive nights later this month in Croke Park, Ireland’s 82,300-seat national stadium for the traditional games of hurling and Gaelic football. Some 400,000 tickets had been sold, at around €60 each. That represents nearly 10 per cent of the Irish population, and is a testament to the enduring love of country music in a country that gave the world U2, Thin Lizzy and, um, Big Tom. Read more
The front page of Wednesday's Bild
When the final whistle put an end to the drubbing, the winning team celebrated with unusual restraint.
Despite an incredible seven of Germany’s 14 shots ending up in the back of the net, there was little gloating at having delivered a stunning 7-1 thrashing to Brazil, tournament favourites, on their home turf.
The players’ wish to express their joy of securing a place in a World Cup final was delayed by pity – a sense that their opponents, and the Brazilians in the crowd, should not be embarrassed further within the dome of the Estádio Mineirão in Belo Horizonte.
That will have won them as many fans as the flair with which they played last night.
Back in Germany, however, the reaction was as euphoric as one would expect when the national team secures a shot at football’s ultimate prize in such emphatic fashion. Read more
Watching the World Cup from Brazil – as I did last week – it was impossible to miss the huge weight of expectations placed on the national team. Half the country – including some toddlers and dogs – seemed to be wearing the yellow jersey of Brazil. Some Brazilians told me that the players would use that pressure to inspire themselves to greater heights. That always seemed doubtful to me. And last night, we saw the opposite happen: the Brazil team crumbled under unbearable pressure and lost by an unthinkable amount. Read more
By Joe Leahy in Belo Horizonte
No sooner had what has already become known in Brazil as “The Massacre” started than the black-humoured jokes about the host team’s demolition by Germany began doing the rounds on the internet. Read more
Exactly 100 days after he was summoned to rescue François Hollande’s floundering presidency, France’s reformist prime minister Manuel Valls can claim to be making some progress – not least by confronting recalcitrant rebels among the president’s own political ranks.
On Tuesday, the government won an important vote in the National Assembly on measures to begin the implementation of Mr Hollande’s pro-business policy turn, facing down sometimes noisy opposition from a group of Socialist party dissidents who regard Mr Valls’s Blairite tendencies with deep suspicion.
Some 30-plus Socialist deputies abstained in the vote, slightly less than the number of rebels who abstained when Mr Valls set out his stall in a confidence vote in April. The government won by 272 votes to 234 against. Read more