The World Cup in the summer of 2006 was a turning point in German history. The country that brought the world the Holocaust had already taken many successful steps toward full rehabilitation -- it had matured into a stable democracy and achieved peaceful reunification. Then, even more remarkably, Germany became something that might have been unimaginable to many: likeable. It organised a perfect football tournament and showed a warm and cosmopolitan side the world had never seen before. The German national team under then-coach Jürgen Klinsmann were even gracious in defeat to the Italians, who took the trophy home.The author, Markus Feldenkirchen, doesn't draw any parallels with the UK in 1966 (which we, ahem, actually won) but of course the national mood of self-confidence, tiny skirts, cheeky cars, pop music, play for today and experimental sex also disguised a decade of economic collapse, industrial inefficiency and deep seated structural problems that led Tony Crosland to declare "The party's over" in 1974.
So did we emerge better and stronger? Feldenkirchen says of Germany "Failing to live up to one's own high standards and not even trying in the first place are two completely different things". Our dismal foreign policy record since the Falklands, our hypocrisy in our dealings with China and Saudi Arabia, two of the world's most repressive regimes, and our utter lack of a moral anchor suggest that we haven't even been trying.