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Colourful German fans invade Vienna ahead of David-Goliath clash

SoccerNews in Bundesliga, European Championships 16 Jun 2008

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As loud and taunting as their Austrian counterparts, German fans arrived on Monday afternoon in Vienna just hours before a crucial group B match that could see either team crash out of the tournament or make it into the quarter finals.

Around noon, supporters of the Mannschaft were still a minority at Westbahnhof train station, the arrival point for all trains from Germany. With painted faces and team shirts from the victorious 1954 or 1990 World Cups or the more recent 2008 championship, they were met with a chorus of jokes and “we are Cordoba, lala lala,” sung in every key imaginable.

For the Argentinian town of Cordoba symbolises Austria's biggest hopes and Germany's worst fears, following the 1978 World Cup where tiny Austria, already out of the tournament, defeated the then defending world champions West Germany 3-2.

It was the Austrians' first victory over their northern neighbours in 47 years.

Since then, Austria has only beaten its “best enemy” once, in 1986.

In Monday night's battle between two countries that share a common language and culture, each one has been given a role to play.

With three World Cup titles and as many European trophies, the Mannschaft is clearly the Goliath in this duel, but one that the Austrians would be more than happy to see biting the dust, thus ending its Euro 2008 campaign in the group stage.

“Today's game is especially important. If we lose, it's an embarrassment,” said Karsten from Halle, in eastern Germany, after stepping off the train in Vienna.

This was not likely to happen, if the hundred German supporters already camped out on the square in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral in Vienna's old town, were to be believed. From Passau, Hamburg or Frankfurt, they came to see their team win.

With a beer in hand and black-red-gold hats on their heads, they began warming up their vocal chords ahead of Monday night's game by partaking in a chanting contest with local fans.

“Football isn't a winter sport,” said the Germans, commenting on the Austrians' skiing supremacy but rather poor performance in sports that do not involve snow and ice.

The Austrians, outnumbered, replied timidly: “you just deliver points.”

Leading the Germans to conclude: “we're playing at home” and claiming victory in the first round of the playful contest, to the sound of persistent drum rolls.

“A football match lasts 90 minutes and in the end, the Germans win,” Stefan, a German student, said in a half-proud, half-ironic tone, quoting former England international Gary Lineker.

Not everybody has managed to get seats for the game however and some were still desperately looking for tickets on the black market.

“The prices are unreal: between 500 to 600 euros,” complained Karsten.

Some 200,000 people, including 40,000 Germans were expected in Vienna Monday for a surely colourful event.

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