Germans cautious at halftime in World Cup final

BERLIN (AP) - Early confidence gave way to caution among football fans at the German capital's famous Brandenburg Gate with the World Cup final between Germany and Argentina scoreless at halftime in Brazil.

"It's going to be hard, very hard," Germany supporter Marcus Ewald told The Associated Press. "I think a goal could decide it either way. Or it could end 1-1 and then we'll have penalties. That's what I think - penalties."

The fan mile beside the Brandenburg Gate was full hours before kickoff on Sunday, with more than 250,000 people crowded onto the 1.2-kilometer (0.75-mile) stretch of road through the Tiergarten.

Crowds began gathering to watch the game in front of giant TV screens with around six hours to go, despite rain showers and thunder rumbling ominously overhead. The biggest cheer before kickoff came when the clouds gave way and the sun briefly broke through.

Police closed a number of entrances to the "fan mile" at least four hours before kickoff due to the sheer numbers of fans attending. With three hours to go, police said it was full.

Other public viewing venues also filled up, despite forecasts of heavy rain across the country. Showers and summer storms were expected to move in from the southwest.

Not everyone was supporting Germany. A Berlin tax-driver with an Argentina flag flying from his window riled fans on Kastanienallee Street in Prenzlauer Berg by beeping at them as he passed.

"I've been cursed at and spat upon," said Cihan Goz, laughing as he relayed the story. He said he was a fan of Maradona, revered among Argentines as the world's best ever player. Coz was still picking up passengers despite the flag.

At Rio de Janeiro's famous Maracana Stadium on Sunday, Germany is bidding to win its fourth World Cup title, its first as a reunified country.

West Germany's triumph in 1990 came several months after the fall of the Berlin Wall, which passed in front of the Brandenburg Gate.

"Mauerfall" will be marked later this year with 25th anniversary celebrations, although the area would stage more celebrations on Tuesday if Germany beats Argentina.

If victorious, coach Joachim Loew's team is scheduled to present the World Cup trophy to fans at the Brandenburg Gate. General manager Oliver Bierhoff said, however, there would be no party with the fans unless Germany wins the title.


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