A front-page commentary from the current issue of Die Zeit refers to Joseph de Maistre's famous comment that 'every nation gets the government it deserves'.
This would be a rather cruel observation about Germany at the moment, where word has been making the rounds that the Conservative-Liberal coalition in power since late last year is doomed; however, the paper notes with some satisfaction, there is another side to this coin: 'every nation also has the national football team that it deserves'.
This, naturally, would go down rather better here, as -- despite having to settle for third place -- the German team played some surprisingly inspiring football.
Of course, this would be less pleasant, if true, for, say, England and France.
But I'm wondering whether this whole connection between national character and style of play actually holds up.
Just consider the top three teams -- Spain, the Netherlands and Germany -- who played, respectively, with almost inhuman efficiency, brutal thuggishness(*) and exuberant joie de vivre.
None of these, it seems to me, corresponds very well at all with their respective national stereotypes. (Certainly not with regard to Germany, where, say, a relaxed, graceful and easy-going Lebensfreude -- while not unheard of -- is not exactly overabundant. We have our virtues: this is not one of them.)
Which, to turn this back to Die Zeit's politics-football comparison, is, perhaps, comforting: maybe, after all, we don't deserve the government we have.
Nor, one might say at the moment, the trains we have.
But that is another issue altogether.
(*I'm referring here to the final: How does one sing 'everybody was kung-fu fighting' in Dutch?)