The Scots will tell you that they only support two International teams: Scotland and anybody playing against England. The English, meanwhile, tend to ignore Scotland, partly to annoy the Scots but partly because they don't care, and concentrate on holding grudges against some of the innumerable teams who have knocked them out of a major tournament, Argentina, say, and, of course, Germany.
Wanting German teams to lose isn't a pastime that's limited to the English, however. In his book "Football Against the Enemy" Simon Kuper claims that over half the dutch population took to the streets to celebrate when Holland beat Germany in 1988.
The Austrians will tell you that they've been hating the Piefke longer and more venomusly than anybody. Well, that's debatable, but what isn't debatable is that there's been a lot of talk of "Córdoba" recently.
Córdoba, for those without a nearby Austrian to clear things up for you, is the site of a famous Austrian victory over the West Germany in 1978, their second in forty seven years, which knocked the Germans out of the World Cup. Hans Krankl netted two that day, ensuring himself legendary status in Austria.
Schadenfreude, as the ritual explanation goes, is a very German word, despite the fact that enjoyment at others misfortune is not limited to the Germans at all. And joy at Germany's misfortunes can seem like a universal constant outside of Germany itself. So it is that many Austrians are looking forward to tonight's match with giddy expectation. Howard Webb may, or may not, have gifted them a point with that penalty decision (it is to be hoped that he never needs his plumbing fixed again after earning the contempt of the entire Polish nation -- ignoring the fact that their goal was offside), but the country feels that it is on a roll. And that they're playing at home. And they've been playing well. And that, really, if Croatia can beat them, then it really is their turn. And it's about time.
Well, good luck to them. With enough luck they might just do it.
I predict that they will start off quickly using what pace they have to try and catch their opponents napping. They will fade after twenty minutes and spend the rest of the half defending. Austria will need to score a goal in that first 20 minutes because Germany will grind them down in the second 25.
The second half will be something like the reverse of the first. A Ballack-led German team will keep relentless pressure on the Austrians for much of the match. In the last fifteen minutes or so minutes Austria will get something like a second wind and again try to use what pace they have against the Germans, perhaps scenting a historic victory or just seeking a consolation goal.
I'm not going to predict the result, I just hope that it's a fun, fair match.