18 years ago, the whole world was amazed by Germany. The German people had never been as cheerful, open and hospitable as they were during the 2006 World Cup in their own country. On June 14, the European Football Championship kicks off in Germany with the German team's match against Scotland. What are the chances of the summer fairytale continuing?

Franz can no longer fix it. The recently deceased German soccer emperor Franz Beckenbauer was the face of the World Cup in Germany 18 years ago. He rotated tirelessly by helicopter from stadium to stadium, from city to city and from triumph to triumph, watching Germany's unexpected progress to the semi-finals of the World Cup with a smile on his face and seeing how Germany, which was regarded abroad as somewhat humorless and joyless, had transformed itself into something that could really have fun. Into a country that invited the whole world to celebrate a party together that would be even bigger, better and more beautiful than any previous German sporting event. Franz Beckenbauer later admitted that there was also a bit of luck involved: "The opening match in Munich also marked the arrival of summer in Germany!" For four weeks, soccer fans from all over the world went wild in public viewing arenas from Munich to Berlin in the warm early summer, celebrating peacefully and happily together in a soccer festival that even UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan praised as "one of the best World Cups ever". 

Whether the 2024 European Football Championship in Germany can build on this great success is still written in the stars. But there are some signs that a new fairytale could be written this summer. In any case, people in ten German cities are already looking forward to the 24 teams that have qualified for the biggest European Championship in history. Small flags are already fluttering in the wind on the side mirrors of German motorists.

Anticipation for the 2024 European Championship is growing

Like the World Cup 18 years ago, the European Championship will open on June 14 in Munich. The match against Scotland is already regarded as one of the highlights of the entire tournament. Not necessarily for sporting reasons: It is the legendary Scottish fans who will literally give the Bavarian metropolis a frenzied weekend. The so-called Tartan Army is known for its love of singing and drinking, and there are rumors from the island that thousands of them will travel to the European Championships. There is no fear of riots: "The Scots are coming with peaceful intentions. They don't want to conquer cities, they want to drink pubs empty!" wrote a soccer magazine recently. In Munich, with its experience of the Oktoberfest, such wishes will be dealt with casually. On June 12, the Theresienwiese - where else! - with around 90,000 guests at the Euro 2024 Fan Fest. Spoiler alert: lots of men in skirts are expected!

Ready for the European Championship 2024 © stock.adobe.com - Michael Stifter

Public Viewing

But preparations are also in full swing at the other venues. Dortmund is looking forward to welcoming Italian fans who are traditionally keen travelers and numerous visitors to Westfalenpark, with free admission to the public viewing area. The Croatians, who are also keen travelers, are expected in large numbers in Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig. Cologne can look forward to a host of English fans and the neighboring Belgians, while the always cheerful Danes will leave their mark in Stuttgart. In Gelsenkirchen, all matches will be broadcast on a big screen in the historic Nordstern colliery, with the German matches also being shown in the amphitheater, where rock concerts are usually held. Public viewing at its best. Our beloved neighbors from Austria and France will meet in Düsseldorf. If you can't get hold of tickets for this top match, you can choose to watch the big public viewing either on the banks of the Rhine or in the fan zones on Burgplatz or at the Schauspielhaus.

Hope for a summer fairytale 2.0

Whether the European Championships will actually be a fairytale experience will of course also depend on the sporting success of the German team. If the team were to fail early in the preliminary round, as they did at the last World Cups in Russia and Qatar and at the rescheduled European Championships in 2021, it would certainly be a mood killer for the whole country. But this nightmare scenario seems to be off the table. With young coach Julian Nagelsmann and newly installed sporting director Rudi Völler, a breath of fresh air is now blowing through the DFB team's musty dressing rooms just in time for the tournament. The preliminary round against teams like Scotland, Switzerland and Hungary should be manageable. The current development of the German team certainly gives cause for hope. After the ex-Bayern Munich coach Nagelsmann had made a mangy mess of the first games against Austria and Turkey, he decided to turn things around, to paraphrase Herbert Grönemeyer. He removed a few of the established players from the squad and brought in young, fresh and talented players. And, of course, Real Madrid great Toni Kroos, who will serve as a leading figure for the young DFB team at the European Championships. Kroos had already announced his retirement from the national team some time ago.

The prospect of repeating the summer fairytale of 2006 in his own country made even the hardened professional from Madrid rethink. He still remembers well how he and his team-mates were celebrated by hundreds of thousands on the streets of Berlin in 2006 as the "world champions of hearts", even though they had only finished third in an inspiring tournament. The hopes of the German fans are pinned on him, as well as on the two promising young stars Florian Wirtz from Leverkusen and Jamal Musiala from Bayern Munich. Whether the weather during the European Championships in June 2024 will be as good as during the summer fairytale of 2006 is, of course, not yet foreseeable. In any case, the 100-year calendar predicts "sun, rain, sun and rain". The shining light Franz Beckenbauer, who was said during his lifetime to succeed in everything, can no longer fix it. But perhaps Rudi Völler, Julian Nagelsmann and Toni Kroos will do it together. After all, all three still have room for improvement as storytellers. 

Geschrieben von Harald Brown

Travel and culture journalist Harald Braun, a native of the Rhineland, lives in the countryside of Schleswig-Holstein, regularly escapes to Australia in winter, likes FC St. Pauli, South Tyrol and, increasingly, selected corners of Germany that he has recently discovered - such as the "Greif" harbor crane in front of the Elbphilharmonie concert hall, where you can spend an excellent night.

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