BERLIN: The Argentina supporters are everywhere here in Berlin and already there is a feeling of resignation.
"We cannot win," one supporter told me. "Fifa wants a Germany-Brazil final, so Argentina will lose to Germany in the quarter-final."
"Ah," I pointed out. "It was said that Fifa wanted an Italy-Germany final at Italia 90 - but Argentina defeated Italy in the semi-finals."
The supporter went on about luck, about how Argentina were not meant to defeat Italy in 1990, and about how Fifa is dreading the possibility of a final that does not meet with the approval of the World Cup sponsors. Worst-case scenario: Ukraine versus Portugal.
From my point of view, only two finals will do: Germany versus England or Brazil versus Argentina. It is no exaggeration to say that either scenario would be the most significant match in the history of football.
For now, though, the World Cup is not really arrived to Berlin. There does not seem to be the same enthusiasm for the World Cup as there is in, say, Cologne or Frankfurt or even Munich. In other cities, the World Cup logo is everywhere. Here, you have to look hard to find it. That will change when the hotels start to fill up tomorrow to signal the REAL start of this World Cup.
The phoney war is over. Berlin is ready to embrace the tournament. Berlin has become World Cup City and will retain that title until the moment, on Sunday July 9, the winning captain holds aloft the famous golden trophy.
But what does the World Cup mean to a city that was divided between capitalism and communism for so many years? What does the World Cup mean to a city that is as much Eastern Europe as Western Europe? What does the World Cup mean to a city that is more European than German?
Berlin is not a football city. Its leading team, Hertha Berlin, is not a European power and is way below Bayern Munich, Werder Bremen, Borussia Dortmund and others in terms of significance. Berlin is a political city, a cultural city, but not necessarily a sporting city.
The World Cup comes here because it is politically correct to take the final to a city that is so steeped in history. When Germany hosted the World Cup in 1974, Berlin was divided, and so the final was played in the Olympiastadion, Munich.
It should not matter. Paris is not a traditional football city yet it successfully staged the 1998 World Cup final. The same can be said of Yokohama, which staged the 2002 final, and Los Angeles, which staged the 1994 final.
What matters is that the people care. For the most part, they do care. Germany is united like never before, desperate for the national team to win the World Cup on home soil.
Already, there is a generation of people who do not remember when the team won the World Cup in Rome in 1990. The German players who won the 1974 World Cup are grandfathers. And the German players who won the 1954 World Cup are, largely, dead.
Germany go into this World Cup with a strange reputation. They are exciting to watch but vulnerable at the back. They are not quite underdogs but there is not that expectation to win. There is still a perception that Argentina and Brazil are the best two teams in the world, and that England are the most fearful.
If Germany do meet England in the final, expect a blanket of apprehension to fall over Berlin.
Then it really will become a football city, as well as a World Cup City.