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World Cup Fever in Berlin Survives German Loss


The month-long World Cup soccer tournament is almost over. Just two of 64 matches are left. Germany and Portugal face off tomorrow for third place. On Sunday, France and Italy vie for the title.

NPR's Emily Harris reports from Berlin that the German capital is ready for the final soccer parties.

EMILY HARRIS reporting:

For nearly a month now, Berlin has been split down the middle by soccer. The city's main east-west street is closed to traffic and lined with huge TV screens and food, beer, and souvenir stands. During World Cup games, it's a packed party. In between, music and videos still blare, but it's slow enough for two security guards to play foosball at free tables set up on the street.

(Soundbite of foosball game)

Fifteen-year-old Lana Schulty(ph) wanders by. Even though Germany lost to Italy in the semi-finals, she's still wearing socks, a shirt, and hat with the German national colors. Her face is painted red, black, and gold, and a German flag is wrapped around her legs like a skirt.

Naturally, she wants Germany to beat Portugal for third place. For the championship, she's rooting for Italy, even though that's the team that knocked Germany out.

Ms. LANA SCHULTY: My parents have lived in Italy 20 years ago, and we have still friends there. And, I don't know, I think they are the best team.

HARRIS: Lana seems to be in the minority around here at the moment.

Ms. CAROL GUILLEY(ph): My name's Carol Guilley, from Scotland. I'm rooting for the French. I'm rooting for the French.

HARRIS: Why are you rooting for the French?

Ms. GUILLEY: The old men, their one last chance. Their last chance to win.

Mr. JUAN SANCHEZ(ph): Hi. I'm Juan Sanchez, and I'm from Columbia. I think France is going to win, and I hope France wins, because I like it.

Ms. PETREY FALLEY(ph): (Foreign language spoken)

HARRIS: Petrey Falley is in Berlin on a school trip from France.

Ms. FALLEY: (Through translator) We won with the Brazilian people, so we will win with Italian people. Of course.

HARRIS: A crepe vendor here hopes having France in the final will improve business during Sunday's match. A souvenir stand is bringing in extra t-shirts with French and Italian colors today.

Jens Kirshnik edits Elf Fuende or Eleven Friends, a German magazine of soccer and soccer culture. He says Italy has performed well enough to win, but France is the emotional favorite.

Mr. JENS KIRSHNIK (Editor, Elf Fuende): If you regard it on the aspect of drama, it should be France, because it's the last game of Zinedine Zidane, and France began playing very bad and they got better and better.

HARRIS: French star, Zinedine Zidane, is the son of Algerian immigrants. He just turned 34 years old and is retiring at the end of this World Cup.

Although France and Italy have plenty of fans in Berlin, police here thought two foreign teams in the final would mean fewer crowds in the street to watch Sunday's game. Now, the German team plans to make a public thank you appearance in Berlin before the final begins.

Still, police spokesman, Bernhardt Shudroffsky(ph), says they're ready.

Mr. BERNHARDT SHUDROFFSKY (Spokesman, Berlin Police): We're very relaxed. We are very, very relaxed because we have good experiences in these four weeks in handling the crowd of the fans.

HARRIS: Even as Berlin ramps up for the final, the whole operation is also winding down. An auction house is due to strip stadiums of World Cup furniture and paraphernalia next week. A three-story soccer ball that toured Germany over the past two years on Monday heads for a new home, in a museum.

German fans, with no shot at this championship, are already talking about World Cup 2010.

Emily Harris, NPR News, Berlin.

NEARY: You can test your command of World Cup facts at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

International Correspondent Emily Harris is based in Jerusalem as part of NPR's Mideast team. Her post covers news related to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip. She began this role in March of 2013.