This year’s World Cup was definitely enjoyable to watch. I was rooting for team USA, but realistically, I knew their chances of taking the tournament this year were very slim. I picked the Netherlands and also followed their progress up to their disappointing loss in penalty kicks against Argentina, who ended up losing to the stereotypically efficient Germans on Sunday. While watching the games, I began learning about some of the star players on each team.
Thomas Müller, Germany’s striker who nearly won the Golden Boot (given to the player who scores the most goals in the tournament), earned my respect as the tournament progressed. I became a big fan of Müller after hearing an ex-teammate describe his work ethic; he said that when playing games in practice, if Müller was on your team, you’d win nine times out of ten due to his competitive spirit and will to win.
On the other side of the pitch was Argentina’s Lionel Messi, who is often described as the world’s best player. In pure numbers, he is worlds away from any other player (except Ronaldo, the only good argument against Messi’s claim as the greatest footballer today). It’s easy to be amazed at the record-shattering ability of the world’s best, but Messi is also well-known for his humility on and off of the field.
For the World Cup finals, I couldn’t decide which country I should cheer on, and so I just supported both teams (calling the combination “Argermantina”) and hoped for an athletic and skilled performance by both teams. It turned out to be an incredible display for both teams, with plenty of opportunities on offense and brilliant stops on defense for both teams. Germany prevailed though, thanks to a fantastic goal in the 113th minute. Still, since it was a fitting end to a spectacular World Cup, I thought I’d do a little trivia about both countries and their World Cup teams.
This South American country takes up nearly the entire southern tip of South America, barring a tiny sliver along the southwestern coast occupied by Chileans. The name “Argentina” comes from the Lain argentum, which, if you know the etymology of seemingly odd periodic table symbols (e.g., Fe=iron, Cu=copper, Au=gold), you know that it means silver. There was a legend spread among early European settlers that a mountain range filled with silver existed in the region.
The capital of Argentina is Buenos Aires, which means fair winds and describes the favorable climate of the region. The capital is often referred to as the “Paris of South America” due to its abundance of European style opera, theater, and other arts.
The flag of Argentina is a “triband”, which just means that it has three horizontal bands of equal width. The top and bottom band are light blue and the middle band is white. Some claim that the colors represent clouds and the sky. There is a stoic-faced, golden sun with long, alternating wavy and straight rays, called the Sun of May. It is the national emblem of both Uruguay and Argentina (and also appears on Uruguay’s flag). When the modern flag was first designed, the Sun of May was copied from the first official Argentine coin. It refers to the May Revolution that preceded independence from Spain and also represents the Incan sun god Inti.
There are many other interesting facts about Argentina. In the late 19th/early 20th century, Argentina became one of the fastest growing economic powers. In a span of about 40 years, the country went from one of the top 25 nations by GDP to the 7th highest GDP in the world. Growth eventually slowed, and Argentina now typically ranks in the 50-60th position but still the third highest in South America. The current pope is Argentinian, and he is the first South American pontiff. Argentina is the home of three Nobel Prize winners in scientific fields and is also the home of my current principal investigator. Argentina has a nuclear program and a space program that includes a successful satellite program.
Germany, the most populous country in the European Union, lies in the center of western Europe, occupying land shaped like an open-mouthed head profile. While the borders that contained the German people have not remained constant, Germanic tribes have existed in Europe for thousands of years. The Romans even referred to a region as “Germania”, which referred to areas east of the Rhine. German states eventually unified after the Napoleonic Wars, and these were ruled by Prussia and Austria until Otto von Bismarck called himself Chancellor of Germany.
The capital of Germany is Berlin. Berlin is famous in modern history for its well-known wall. The Berlin Wall was constructed to separate East Berlin and West Berlin (and East Germany and West Germany) and also the political ideologies that these regions upheld. The wall was torn down beginning in 1989, and the demolition also foreshadowed the downfall of a divided Germany. Interestingly, the winning goal in this year’s World Cup was scored and assisted by the first two German national team members born in a united Germany.
The tricolor flag of Germany consists of a black stripe, red stripe, and yellow stripe from top to bottom. These are the national colors of Germany, first adopted in 1919 when the Weimar Republic replaced the imperial government. There are variant flags of Germany, like those used for military purposes, and these also contain an illustration of a black eagle. The German national team is nicknamed Die Alder or The Eagles. The colors have historical significance, as they were adopted in the middle ages. The modern flag refers to the colors in reverence of 19th century volunteers who fought in the Napoleonic Wars wearing black coats, red braids, and gold buttons.
Germany has a storied past. It is infamously regarded for its role during World War II, which many modern citizens are known to be extremely apologetic toward and Denial of the Holocaust is considered a crime. While Argentina can be proud to claim a few Nobel Prize winners, at least 104 laureates claim Germany as their homeland, including arguably the most famous physicist in the modern era, Albert Einstein. Germans consume the third largest volume of beer per capita, only bested by Czech Republic and Austria. Germany is home to the Goseck Circle, which, at nearly 7000 years old, is believed to be the oldest sun observatory in the entire world. Congratulations to the winners!