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Double delight in winning start

Party time twice over in the so-called English Garden in Munich. This is like Kew Gardens transplanted from south-west London but without the horticultural science. Visitors enjoy the tranquillity of strolling in pleasant parkland with a beer garden at its centre beneath the shadow of a mock Chinese pagoda.

Happiness reigned beneath the pagoda on both Friday morning and Saturday morning. The festive freedom which always accompanies the eve of a World Cup was echoed in the delight and relief that the German hosts had kicked off “their” great sporting event with a victory.

Not a simple victory. Not a victory free of care, for all the clarity of the 4-2 final scoreline against lively but lightweight Costa Rica. The central Americans’ delightful playmaker Walter Centeno revealed, with his probing passes, the frightening depth of the chasm at the heart of the German defence.

Per Mertesacker and Christoph Metzelder may stand physically tall but, in footballing terms at this level, they are minnows, and better teams than Costa Rica should rip their defence into fragments.

Fortunately for the sake of German pride and the momentum of these finals, such a fate will not befall Jurgen Klinsmann’s team until the knockout stages on the road to Berlin and July 9.

Berlin’s status as tournament terminus underlines the geographical imbalance of this World Cup. The reunification-revived capital hosts Fifa’s offices and is home, like Munich, to a major World Cup broadcasting hub. But Berlin is away to the east of Germany and owes its primacy ' both for the nation and its football ' not at all to geography but rather to the vagaries of history.

Instead, as the opening match proved, Munich is the effective capital of German football just as Manchester has been the football capital of England for a decade and the Milan-Turin axis runs the Italian game rather than Rome.

Munich hosted the finals of the 1974 World Cup and the 1988 European Championship as well as, most recently, the climax of the Champions League in 1997. But that was in the old Olympic stadium with its iconic glass and steel cobweb of a roof.

Football has moved on since then to the balloon-like Arena built by Bayern and neighbours 1860 Munich in little more than a year; the Olympic stadium, with the uselessly gentle rake in its seating, its lack of cover and its vast athletics track is now football history.

Similarly, history is the place to which most of (West) Germany’s winning players from 1954 and 1974 have been relegated. But relegated with honour. The social significance of the shock 1954 victory over Ferenc Puskas’s supposedly unbeatable superstars of Hungary is still being picked over in film and philosophical debate. Twenty years later, West Germany won as underdogs again, this time against Johan Cruyff’s Holland. Another 16 years and the hat-trick was secured in Italy.

A surviving selection of the players strolled out for a parade of champions in Friday’s opening ceremony, some more recognisable after the passing of the years than others. Paul Breitner, the 1970s Maoist, now wears a smart slate-grey suit, sports a matching greying beard and hosts a football discussion forum for fans in a local department store.

How times have changed.

Franz Beckenbauer goes on, of course, the most successful chameleon ' first player and captain, then subsequently coach of club and country, club president, federation vice-president and host-winning director of the DFB. He shared the opening podium with Fifa president Sepp Blatter and state president Horst Kohler. For reasons of diplomacy and protocol, neither Blatter nor Beckenbauer spoke. But that was accidentally appropriate; for the next four weeks it is the footballers and their football which will do the talking.

Not only the football and footballers of Germany but those of England, France, Argentina, Italy, and Brazil and whoever will spring the surprises on which the game’s legend depends.

If that means more statements such as the sensational goals of Philipp Lahm and Torsten Frings, then bring it on.

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