The deputy chief of mission for the German Embassy, Boris Ruge, clasped his hands together so tight beside his stein that they whitened.
Ruge pursed his lips and craned his neck at the television in Sauf Haus Bier Hall & Garten in Northwest Washington on Sunday morning, urging the German defenders to just please, please, please kick the ball away. Or get in the way. Or do something to stop Mexico streaking down the field.
Instead, Ruge watched as none of that happened, and Mexico scored. Ruge dropped his gaze to the bright orange picnic table. His still figure became the calm eye surrounded by a hurricane of green and red Mexican jerseys jumping in jubilation, trying to create a ripple of the Richter scale movement being produced at that moment in Mexico City.
After the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Gerónimo Gutiérrez, finished tearing around the room, he and Ruge made brief eye contact. Ruge raised his eyebrows with a weary grin, and all Gutiérrez could do was shrug.
It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
An hour earlier, one room over from Ruge in the beer garden, Christine Pommerening spoke for many fans of World Cup defending champion Germany when she said: “We can do it, but it’s always more difficult the second time. We’re the favorite for a reason, but the favorites still always need some lucky breaks.”
Just in case, Pommerening and her husband, Todd Berry, sent out good vibes in the best way they could think to. They knew three of the past four defending champions hadn’t made it out of the group stage, so they wore their black-and-white Germany jerseys with the official FIFA emblem and sipped neon yellow Bitburger Radler tallboys.
But in the second half, Pommerening and Berry seemed to widen their eyes with every save the Mexican goalie made, each appearing more preposterous than the last. They seemed to slump more as the lucky breaks they knew Germany needed never came.
When it was over, they walked down the stairs as the echoes of Mexican fans singing “Cielito Lindo” followed them out. Upstairs, the green-and-red storm had fully overtaken the other room. Ruge had left the beer garden before the game ended to attend another watch party at the embassy.
On the table, in his place, sat a half-empty stein.
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