Germany exited the World Cup and a weakened Angela Merkel may soon find herself in the wilderness as Max Liu reports.
"The UK is [1.64] to leave the EU by March 29. With less than nine months to go until that deadline, however, we are, in the words of football commentators, leaving it late."
It was fun, watching a once mighty power brought down by arrogance, poor organisation and lack of imagination. I'm talking about Germany's exit from the World Cup. There isn't really any reason in 2018 for England fans to take more pleasure in the demise of Germany than in that of, say, Portugal, but there's no denying that for many people - your humble correspondent included - watching Die Mannschaft crash out of the World Cup brightened up Wednesday afternoon.
Back in the real world, though, it's the UK which is in real danger of crashing out of the European Union without a Brexit deal. That was surely the takeaway from the EU leaders' summit this week, at the end of which European Council president Donald Tusk accused the UK of dithering and said: "There is a great deal of work ahead, and the most difficult tasks are still unresolved. If we want to reach a deal in October we need quick progress. This is the last call to lay the cards on the table."
Time running out for Brexit deal?
The UK is [1.64] to leave the EU by March 29. With less than nine months to go until that deadline, however, we are, in the words of football commentators, leaving it late, to make a deal with the EU.
Tusk called this week for May to end the disunity in her government and "lay the cards on the table" about what kind of deal she wants for Brexit. This is, to say the least, easier said than done. As the actor Danny Dyer put it this week, when he captured the mood of millions of Britons: "Brexit is a mad riddle."
But Tusk isn't the only one calling for unity in the Tory party. Today, Sir Graham Brady, leader of the influential Tory 1922 committee, warns the cabinet to unite or risk the "disaster" of a Corbyn government. The Tories are [1.92] to win the next election, with Labour [2.16], but those odds fall well within the margin of electoral error, as do most polls which currently give the Tories a one to three point lead.
Is World Cup success May's best hope?
England fans have reportedly been told not to sing about Brexit at the World Cup in Russia, which leads me to wonder - if England [9.0] win the World Cup, what would it mean for the government? Would the feel-good factor in the country tempt May to call an early election and try to win back a Tory majority at [2.92]?
Probably not. The relationship between sport and politics is notoriously tricky to deduce. John Major hoped that an England triumph at Euro 96 would save his government. Had England won the tournament, Major would, according to historians, have held a general election in the late summer/early autumn of 1996 and gambled on a nation buoyed by sporting success sticking with his government for another five years.
Apart from being partronising (Tories thinking success at football would make voters forget the economic disasters of the previous five years), this raises the question: was Gareth Southgate's decisive penalty shootout miss against Germany, in June 1996, the final nail in the coffin of the Major government? All we know for sure is that England lost, there was no feel-good factor to save Major and, 11 months later, Labour came to power via a landslide.
Is Merkel's coalition close to collapse?
In Germany, football does appear to be reflecting politics, as it's not only the national football team that's in need of renewal. The coalition government is creaking as much its back four. This week, Angela Merkel faced a crisis when her Interior Minister, Horst Seehofer, threatened to defy Merkel's migration policy and order officials to reject asylum seekers at the German border.
Seehofer, who's also the leader of Merkel's coalition partners the CSU, gave the Chancellor until today to reach an agreement with other EU states to reduce what he sees as Germany's immigration burden. Merkel has agreed a deal in principle with other EU countries, so she should survive for now, but Seehofer's ultimatum shows just how much power the Chancellor has lost since last September's election.
Merkel came to power in 2005, the year before Joachim Low became manager of the German football team. In their different ways, the pair have lead their country with distinction for more than a decade. This week, we saw time catching up with them both, as it does with us all eventually.